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We know singing is good for us. We know that it makes us happy. But these are times like no other. Most of us are juggling more than we ever thought possible. Paddling hard just to stay afloat.

“Surely”, you might be thinking, “attending choir practice should be the last thing on our minds?”. Well, you’d be surprised.

In March 2020 the UK Government released advice for looking after your mental health and wellbeing during the pandemic. And almost everything they suggest can be achieved by joining a choir.

Yes, even a virtual one!

Improving our wellbeing is the key to being able to cope with everything life is throwing at us right now. You know the adage ‘fit your mask before helping others’? By taking some time to see to your mental health needs, you put yourself in a better position to provide what everyone else needs from you.

So put on some arm-bands and take a few minutes for yourself to read about how you can benefit from joining a virtual choir. And sing your way to less stress, more joy, and better health.

Sing together to boost your mood

Endorphins are hormones that make us feel happy and positive, and we’re all in need of a few of those at the moment. Luckily, a 2012 study showed that singing along with music releases these much-needed endorphins, pumping us with positivity.

But it’s not enough to sing along with music while you’re hoovering, or in the shower (though this is fun and still to be encouraged). To get the full benefit, it’s important to be singing the same thing at the same time as other people (or other parts, of course).

Researchers from The Sing Your Heart Out project showed that participants who regularly sang together in a choir all reported an improvement in their mental health, mood, and sense of wellbeing.

Improve your physical health

We’re all thinking a lot about our immune systems right now. So here’s some good news: Not only does singing together release endorphins, but a study in 2004 showed that it has a positive effect on the immune response.

But we need to do what we can to fend off non-infectious illness as well. Thankfully studies repeatedly show that singing reduces levels of cortisol. This stress hormone can lead to weight gain, chronic fatigue, and high blood pressure, among other things, if we have too much in our bloodstreams. Anything that reduces it is good in our book!

Furthermore, the deep breathing you experience during a good singing session builds strength in your respiratory muscles and can therefore be beneficial for lung health.

And of course, we mustn’t forget our brain health. Breathing deeply while singing increases blood circulation, feeding more oxygen to the body and the brain. The Alzheimer’s Society developed their ‘Singing for the Brain’ programme in 2015 when they discovered that this improves brain health, memory, and concentration. So sing now and you can enjoy an active brain and healthy memory for years to come. Even when the pandemic is long gone, and just a distant (but sharp, sorry) memory.

Build a sense of routine

“But everything’s so up in the air right now – can’t I just sing with some friends when I have the time?”

You may be wondering why you would want to commit to something regular amidst the chaos of today. But building a routine, especially during uncertain times, can help us regain a sense of control.

This in turn leads to happier moods, better sleep, higher productivity, and countless other benefits.

During the last year, it feels like time has become an amorphous blob. But having a regular commitment in the diary gives you something to look forward to and map your week around.

Having a regular commitment in the diary gives you something to look forward to and map your week around.

You can enjoy the extra motivation that comes with needing to learn your part by a certain day. And you can also enjoy a sense of the time passing as the months roll on. No more will it be “Did we do that yesterday, or 6 weeks ago? I don’t even know the difference anymore!” but instead “Remember? It was just before choir practice last Thursday.”.

Also, after being in lockdown for so long, it can be all too easy to retreat and disconnect from people, leaving us feeling lonely, and a bit stuck. But joining a choir plugs you into a ready-made community. You can see the same people each week, and find out how their week has been. And by discovering you have the same trials and tribulations, you realise you aren’t alone.

And if the thought of routine makes you shudder – remember, it doesn’t have to mean boring. It can be a shake up! With very little that’s different or exciting right now, put something in the calendar that takes you out of your normal lockdown bubble. It will get you talking to new people and learning new things, and give you something to look forward to during the rest of the week.

Credit: Sincerely Media via Unsplash

Credit: Sincerely Media via Unsplash

Be part of a team

Being sat at home can easily make us feel like we’re surplus to requirements; and it can be frustrating to feel like you’re not doing anything useful.

Having a regular session booked in to build routine is one thing. But one where people would miss you if you didn’t show up can also remind you that you are a valuable part of the community. If you don’t show up, your part may not be covered or as strong, and other people’s experience may be hampered.

This may not feel like a lot, but remember all those things about how singing together boosts health and wellbeing? Well in a choir you need everyone there to achieve that. So by turning up, you’re not only boosting your wellbeing, but others’ too.

Turns out you’re not so surplus to requirements after all.

A choir is a team, and in a team, you gain strength from everyone else.

Conversely, maybe you’re a key worker or working hard to support others at home, and you need some time away from looking after other people. Having a set time each week where other people show up for you can provide a powerful feeling of support.

Either way, a choir is a team, and in a team, you gain strength from everyone else. So allow the team to give you purpose in supporting others, and also allow them to support you in your time of need.

Build musicianship

Don’t try and go it alone. By joining a choir you are not only receiving regular coaching from professionals, but also setting up external accountability.

Many of us of course hope to return to live music-making in some form when all this is over. But as we know, musicianship is a muscle. If you don’t use it, you will lose it.

We know that to be able to pick up our live performances where we left off, we are going to need to keep working on our vocal technique, and choral skills.

But it is hard to motivate ourselves to do anything right now. It is a global pandemic after all.

Think back to a choir being a team. You are much more likely to practice your part if someone is relying on you to do that.

And as we know – the more you practice, the faster you will progress. And the faster you progress, the better you’ll be when we are in a position to go back to performing live once more.

Imagine how good it will feel to hit the ground running when that moment comes. To feel ready to perform and enjoy the thrill of a live audience.

Create a sense of achievement

But, you don’t have to wait for that moment to feel a sense of achievement – you can build that now.

For obvious reasons, much of our focus right now is on when the pandemic is over. While this is important for a sense of hope, we also need things we can achieve in the short term.

By joining a regular virtual choir session you will be giving yourself goals to work towards. And by setting goals that you can be in control of (i.e. practicing), as opposed to long-term goals that are out of your hands (i.e. being able to travel post-pandemic), you’re much more likely to achieve them.

In a world where we can all too easily feel out of control and hopeless at the moment, think of that high you’ll get when you get your part right and hear it synced together with everyone else.

And achieving something makes us more motivated to pursue other goals. So that high you get from choir might be the kick-start you’ve been looking for to get you going on that online course you bought 10 months ago.

Or it might just be something wonderful to savour in all its glorious sweetness – because you earned it.

Either way, we could all do with feeling a sense of achievement right now. And if you get to feel that every week? Well, even better!

What are you waiting for?

At the Stay at Home Choir you can meet and learn from some of the most famous artists in the choral world. Our global community of music lovers will be here to stay long after the pandemic is over, and you can join on a project by project basis, so why not GET INVOLVED! Check out what’s on.

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