Girl singing and dancing with headphones

Photo courtesy of @shanti/Twenty20

I have always loved to sing in the shower. I do it in the car and while cooking, too. From belting it out in my kitchen with Nina Simone turned up loud to absentmindedly humming along with the radio in the back of a cab, singing is something I do almost subconsciously. But it’s only recently that I realized how much my crooning is actually an act of self-care. It’s an emotional release, a creative outlet, and a mood-booster all in one. And best of all, it’s free. 

While living and traveling with friends and lovers, I’ve noticed that not everyone shares my propensity for melodic expression. Perhaps it’s due to self-consciousness around such a performative act or maybe they’ve been told they can’t hold a tune. But, really, it doesn’t matter if you’re tone deaf or avoid karaōke at all costs; singing can still have incredible physical and mental health benefits. To find out more, I turned to Nate Martinez, musician, sound therapist, and founder of NTM Sound (who we also spoke to about sound baths here), to see how my habitual singing might be bolstering me more than I know, and how those less accustomed can get in on the goodness. 

What are the benefits of singing? 

There are many. First and foremost giving ourselves the opportunity to express through our voice is incredibly powerful. So many of us have a complicated relationship with our voice: we don’t like the way it sounds or fear judgment from others about how we sound. All of this prevents us from fully expressing ourselves, and this becomes cyclical, so we don’t utilize the instrument that allows us to express and release.”

Is there a chemical effect that happens when we sing?

From a biological and scientific perspective, when we sing it activates many areas of our brain, releasing serotonin and oxytocin (the happy hormones’). And when we sing in groups, there’s a synchronizing of our collective heart rates. These are all beneficial to our sense of wellbeing.”

How can the uninitiated person incorporate singing into their day?

By finding brief moments in the comfort of your home and putting on a song that you really appreciate and can sing along to. If you feel hesitant, be easy on yourself — there’s no one to judge you and we all have to get over inhibitions, whether it’s singing or running on a treadmill at the gym alongside other people. Acknowledging the benefit offers the motivation to work through the uncomfortable moment when you do begin.”

You practice something akin to singing called vocal toning”. What’s that?

Vocal toning is a fantastic practice, and by just carving out a few minutes after a long and stressful day to breathe and connect sound to your breath you can transform your state of being. You don’t need to worry about singing a right’ or wrong’ note. Simply close your eyes and start with a hum’ (sounds like mmm’, the hu’ is silent). Intuitively let out your most natural pitch without thinking about it and connect the tone to your breath. This practice can easily transport you and alter your mood after only a couple minutes.”

Are there any apps, songs or practices you like to use?

For singing I recommend finding songs that you feel drawn to, whether it’s the lyric content, the feeling it gives you, or the emotion it conveys. Just try to sing along with it or you can sing the words and let whatever natural melody comes out without the pressure of trying to sing it verbatim. 

Articles from The Natural should not be considered medical advice. If you have any questions about your health, please consult a medical professional.