I don't drink or smoke, but I do get high! The fact is that since I was of a drinking age I have gotten high on singing. The joy and bliss I feel when I sing is at a whole other level and the positive effects just keep compounding.
When I was 14, I desperately wanted to have singing lessons and my best friend started sessions. One night after school I went to her place and asked her to teach me one of the songs she had learned. She told me that I should never bother having singing lessons as I was not good enough! I believed her (just like many of us believed it when we were told we couldn't sing), but finally in year 11 I got up the courage to audition for the chorus of the school musical, Oklahoma. I received the lead role. Singing has been the greatest joy, passion and sustenance to me ever since.
Can't sing? Won't sing? Told not to sing? Like me, about 85 percent of people have been told by their parents, children, partners or teachers that they can't sing. Our voices have been silenced and it's not doing us any good.
There was a time when everyone used to sing. We sat around campfires, at church and at school. We sang our stories and our dreams. We sang alone and we sang together. Nowadays not many of us sing. We worry that people will think we are strange or that we will be judged and not as good as the celebrities we idolize.
Singing is not about being a star or knowing how to do it well. It's about enjoying the gift of our voices and sharing them with others. We were born to sing. It's primal and it's tribal. Voice is the language of our hearts. It's how we express ourselves. And it's very important to our mental, physical and social well-being.
Creativity Australia's With One Voice choirs welcome people aged 9 to 90, from all faiths, cultures and backgrounds. Through the program's unique social inclusion model, and the Wish List, diverse participants can connect to friends, mentors, wellbeing, joy, new skills and jobs.
As Founder of Creativity Australia my recent TEDx Talk "How Singing Together Changes The Brain" has sparked international interest, with pilot With One Voice programs now under development in the USA and Holland. In 2014, the charity was named one of Australia's top social innovations in Anthill's Smart 100 for the second year in a row.
"Something happened at the choir last week -- I let go of my fears, inhibitions, self-consciousness; and the child within me came to the forefront. I thought 'wow, I can sing, I am doing alright, I am part of a large choir', and my confidence kept growing. I feel on top of the world!" -- Marie
Sing From The Heart, Spark Your Brain
Neuroscience proves that group singing makes us happier, healthier, smarter and more creative. Every time you sing, you fire up the right temporal lobe of your brain, and release endorphins including oxytocin which result in heightened states of pleasure, bliss, bonding and love.
These chemicals also enhance neuroplasticity of our brains, boost our immune system, fight illness, depression and strokes and help us handle pain better. What's more, choral singers have been shown to have enhanced learning skills, synchronized heartbeats and enter patterns of yogic breathing. So what better activity for one's mental health than a daily dose of song?
The scientific benefits of singing are really mind-boggling!
We spend about 85 percent of our time in the left side of our brain, which deals with logic and analytics. This drains our mental battery. The right side of our brains, which deals with intuition, emotion, creativity and fantasy, needs to be recharged.
Activities which recharge our brains include meditation, being in nature, connecting with loved ones and -- you guessed it -- singing with others!
- Release endorphins and increases levels of oxytocin
- Improve posture, breathing and blood-flow
- Save money: our voice is our free human instrument
- Create new neural pathways and improve brain meta-plasticity
- Ward off age-related decline by continuously 'exercising' your brain
- Heal depression, strokes and speech abnormalities
- Promote social bonding and cohesion; and rediscover your own identity
- Relieve mental health issues; feel happier, better connected and supported
- Connect with other diverse voices and your community
- Be smarter, healthier, happier and more creative
A Song For The Future
Our brains developed with singing and music as a survival mechanism. Before there were governments or nations, tribes and groups used songs and dance to build loyalty to the group, transmit vital information and ward off enemies. Those who sang survived.
As workaday stress and media consumption make us ever more isolated, rates of anxiety and depression rise. So, it is fundamentally important to nurture the attributes of humans that set us apart from machines, love, compassion, creativity, courage and so on. When we regularly engage in singing and other creative pursuits, we build bridges of understanding between diverse people and feel part of a bigger, connected universe.
Happy, healthy, empowered individuals and supportive communities are better-placed to solve some of society's biggest challenges, such as mental illness, loneliness and isolation, cultural tension and unemployment.
Together, we can change the world... one voice at a time.
It's cost me virtually nothing, and yet it's given me a new dimension in my life completely - as it has the rest of us. You can't buy that." -- Gerard
How To Find Your Voice
- Join your local choir*
- Immerse yourself in diverse music, concerts, bands, musicals, chanting... you name it!
- Get creative, write your own song and sing it with others
Find your local With One Voice choir at www.creativityaustralia.org.au
"Sing like no one's listening, love like you've never been hurt, dance like no one's watching and live like it's heaven on earth." -- Mark Twain