In the modern world, where humans honestly seem to be plugged in at all hours of the day – even when mowing the lawn – fighting the feeling of loneliness and the depression that accompanies it is a big business. There’s all sorts of self-help books, drugs from the pharmaceutical companies, meditation gurus, and a lot more all claiming to be able to help humans fight, for lack of a better term, the blues.
New research from a psychology professor at McGill University indicates that this is completely the wrong approach. We humans need to go back to our roots and do what our ancestors did.
We need to sing, and not just in the shower.
Daniel Levitin, psychology professor at McGill University and author of This is Your Brain on Music, says group singing isn’t just good for the soul — it’s good for the body.
By analyzing the changes in people’s brain activity when they sing together, he’s come to the conclusion that feelings of belonging and mood elevation are biologically ingrained to surface with communal singing.
Levitin says group singing has been an essential human trait for tens of thousands of years.
It was traditionally a community building exercise that everyone participated in.
“Still today you can go to hunter-gatherer societies, pre-industrial tribes, and everybody sings, everybody dances,” he told Marlow.
The research indicates that modern history has something to do with the demise of communal singing. It’s become an expert activity where the audience does not join in.
As one who has invested tens of thousands of dollars and countless hours in being an expert in the field, this singer/writer will say that experts are required for SOME types of music, but not all. Singing is for everyone, as everyone can sing, it just doesn’t come out the same.
Evolution, on the other hand says that communal singing gives one a feeling of being a part of something bigger than the self.
Levitin points to a wealth of neurological research that suggests our brains release oxytocin when we sing with others.
“That’s a chemical that’s involved in social bonding and it’s believed to give rise to the feelings of togetherness and friendship that comes from singing together,” he said….
“I can go into a rehearsal feeling gross, or having like a really bad mental health day, and I will leave there feeling uplifted, and elated, and grounded, and comforted,” singer Alexis Hillyard of Kokopelli Choir Association told Marlow.
“It’s pretty fantastic.”
There’s a lot more to it that has to do with deep breathing and getting plenty of oxygen in the system, but as a singer with decades of choir and choral experience at the classical professional level as well as in basic church choirs, nothing brings diverse people together like communal singing. It really is a fantastic bonding experience.