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How Singing Your Heart Out Could Make You Happier

Summary: For those with anxiety and depression, singing in groups could make you happier, a new study reports.

Source: University of East Anglia.

Singing in groups could make you happier – according to new research from the University of East Anglia (UEA).

Researchers examined the benefits of singing among people with mental health conditions including anxiety and depression.

They found that people who took part in a community singing group maintained or improved their mental health. And that the combination of singing and socialising was an essential part of recovery because it promoted an ongoing feeling of belonging and wellbeing.

Lead researcher Prof Tom Shakespeare from UEA’s Norwich Medical School and his researcher Dr Alice Whieldon worked in collaboration with the Sing Your Heart Out (SYHO) project, based in Norfolk.

The grassroots initiative runs weekly singing workshops, aimed at people with mental health conditions as well as the general public. It originally began at Hellesdon psychiatric hospital in 2005, but afterwards moved into the community. Around 120 people now attend four free workshops each week across Norfolk – two thirds of whom have had contact with mental health services.

The research project followed the group for six months and undertook interviews and focus groups with participants, organisers, and workshop leaders.

Prof Shakespeare said: “We found that singing as part of a group contributes to people’s recovery from mental health problems.

“The main way that Sing Your Heart Out differs from a choir is that anyone can join in regardless of ability. There’s also very little pressure because the participants are not rehearsing towards a performance. It’s very inclusive and it’s just for fun.

“The format is also different to a therapy group because there’s no pressure for anyone to discuss their condition.

“We heard the participants calling the initiative a ‘life saver’ and that it ‘saved their sanity’. Others said they simply wouldn’t be here without it, they wouldn’t have managed – so we quickly began to see the massive impact it was having.

“All of the participants we spoke to reported positive effects on their mental health as a direct result of taking part in the singing workshops.

Image shows people signing around a piano.

The Sing Your Heart Out project runs weekly singing workshops, aimed at people with mental health conditions as well as the general public. It originally began at Hellesdon psychiatric hospital in 2005, but afterwards moved into the community. Around 120 people now attend four free workshops each week across Norfolk — two thirds of whom have had contact with mental health services. NeuroscienceNews.com image is credited to Sing Your Heart Out.

“For some it represented one component of a wider progamme of support. For others it stood out as key to their recovery or maintenance of health.

“But the key thing for everyone was that the Sing Your Heart Out model induced fun and happiness.”

The report shows how a combination of singing and social engagement gave participants a feeling of belonging and wellbeing that often lasted a day or more, as well as improved social skills and confidence.

Taking part on a weekly basis provided structure, support and contact that helped people improve their mood, feel good, and function better in day-to-day life.

“The Sing Your Heart Out model offers a low-commitment, low-cost tool for mental health recovery within the community,” added Prof Shakespeare.

About this neuroscience research article

Source: Robert Sanders – University of East Anglia
Publisher: Organized by NeuroscienceNews.com.
Image Source: NeuroscienceNews.com image is credited to Sing Your Heart Out.
Original Research: Full open access research for “Sing Your Heart Out: community singing as part of mental health recovery” by Tom Shakespeare and Alice Whieldon in Medical Humanities. Published online November 25 2017 doi:10.1136/medhum-2017-011195

Cite This NeuroscienceNews.com Article
University of East Anglia “How Singing Your Heart Out Could Make You Happier.” NeuroscienceNews. NeuroscienceNews, 21 December 2017.
<http://neurosciencenews.com/happiness-singing-8224/>.
University of East Anglia (2017, December 21). How Singing Your Heart Out Could Make You Happier. NeuroscienceNews. Retrieved December 21, 2017 from http://neurosciencenews.com/happiness-singing-8224/
University of East Anglia “How Singing Your Heart Out Could Make You Happier.” http://neurosciencenews.com/happiness-singing-8224/ (accessed December 21, 2017).

Abstract

Sing Your Heart Out: community singing as part of mental health recovery

This paper reports on a qualitative evaluation of a Norfolk-based network of community singing workshops aimed at people with mental health conditions and the general public. The aims of the study were (a) to evaluate the effectiveness of the Sing Your Heart Out (SYHO) project and (b) to identify the key features which made the project distinctive. The study draws on 20 interviews with participants, two focus groups with organisers and workshop leaders, and participative observation over a 6-month period. Interviewees all reported improvement in or maintenance of their mental health and well-being as a direct result of engagement in the singing workshops. For most it was a key component, and for some the only and sufficient component in their recovery and ongoing psychological stability. SYHO was regarded as different from choirs and from most other social groups and also different from therapy groups, music or otherwise. The combination of singing with an inclusive social aspect was regarded as essential in effecting recovery. The lack of pressure to discuss their condition and the absence of explicit therapy was also mentioned by most participants as an important and welcome element in why SYHO worked for them. The combination of singing and social engagement produced an ongoing feeling of belonging and well-being. Attendance provided them with structure, support and contact that improved functioning and mood. We conclude that the SYHO model offers a low-commitment, low-cost tool for mental health recovery within the community.

“Sing Your Heart Out: community singing as part of mental health recovery” by Tom Shakespeare and Alice Whieldon in Medical Humanities. Published online November 25 2017 doi:10.1136/medhum-2017-011195

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