According to Science, Singing Makes Us Happy

January 18, 2019
Did you know that singing makes us happy? This practice gives us a dose of enthusiasm and even leads to happiness and positivity in Alzheimer's and Parkinson's patients.

When we’re in the shower, we listen and sing along to music. Simply put, singing makes us happy. This universal practice fills us with serotonin and oxytocin. This injection of enthusiasm is available to everyone. In fact, even people with Alzheimer’s react every time they’re encouraged to sing.

How singing alters our world

Edith Piaf once said that singing allows us to escape to another world. However, psychologists and neuroscientists don’t entirely agree with this idea. But music therapy represents a way to connect with others and to awaken the emotions that help us establish more intense bonds with other people.

For example, in a study published in The Journals of Gerontology, researchers explain that when the elderly sing in a community choir, their health improves and they feel less lonely. We can’t ignore the fact that people over the age of 65 are more likely to suffer from depression associated with social isolation.

Therefore, something as simple as being part of a musical group improves interaction and generates very positive emotional, cognitive, and physical changes. But even everyday things like singing in the shower also act as a reset button capable of giving us energy, happiness, and a good dose of positivity.

“I don’t sing to be happy. I’m happy because I sing.” 

-William James-

A man in a dress shirt and tie enthusiastically singing in his car.

Singing makes us happy because the brain loves music

After all, we experience happiness through the simplest things, such as good company, an afternoon of rest, or a meal with friends. Singing makes us happy due to a fact that’s both basic and fascinating: the human brain loves music.

Science strives to explain this fact. Leonard Meyer explains in his book Emotion and Meaning in Music that the brain experiences a kind of pleasant shock with each piece of music and with each note we dare to sing out loud.

Moreover, scientists tell us that we have an interesting structure in our ears that allows us to sing: the saccule. This small part of the inner ear responds to the frequencies created when we sing. That physiological response gives us pleasure. Those vibrations calm the brain in a cathartic way. It’s almost magical.

Sing to improve your mood

Pablo Picasso said that in order to paint and draw, you have to close your eyes and sing. Singing softly or loudly or even whispering and humming is a thing many of us do as we carry out other tasks. Thus, we commonly sing while we’re driving, playing sports, cleaning our house, or even working.

Singing improves our mood. It releases endorphins, produces serotonin, and reduces cortisol levels. Also, a study that was carried out at the University of Frankfurt revealed that singing strengthens our immune system and even improves our breathing, diaphragm flexibility, and lung health.

Correlation between singing and neurodegenerative diseases

But one of the most remarkable benefits of singing, which we already referred to at the beginning of this article, involves people with neurodegenerative diseases. Moreover, the Alzheimer’s Association has carried out what they call “singing for the brain” sessions for years.

It has been observed that singing improves alertness in elderly people with this disease. It helps them connect with others in a positive way. They experience joy, laugh, and feel more receptive to communication and interaction. It also improves their concentration and mood.

On the other hand, another aspect that experts in the field of intellectual disability, such as Tom Shakespeare and Alice Whieldon of the University of East Anglia, have been able to verify is that people with mental problems greatly benefit from singing workshops. Singing reduces their stress and anxiety levels and helps them gain self-confidence and social skills.

Singing makes us happy, and can even improve feelings of loneliness in the elderly.

We could say that, in some way, singing always rewards our brain. Music acts as another language where no words are necessary.

  • Julene K. Johnson, Anita L. Stewart, Michael Acree, Anna M. Nápoles, Jason D. Flatt, Wendy B. Max, Steven E. Gregorich. “A Community Choir Intervention to Promote Well-being among Diverse Older Adults: Results from the Community of Voices Trial.” The Journals of Gerontology: Series B (First published: November 9, 2018) DOI: 10.1093/geronb/gby132
  • Tom Shakespeare and Alice Whieldon. “Sing Your Heart Out: Community Singing as Part of Mental Health Recovery.” Medical Humanities (First published online: November 25, 2017) DOI: 10.1136/medhum-2017-011195
  • Meyer, Leonard (2001) Emoción y significado en la música. Madrid: Alianza Editorial