Workplace singing for mental health and wellbeing in the news.
This week, a study by Joanna Foster and Dr Catherine Steele from the University of Leicester into therapeutic powers of the choir for improving the lives of employees, was reported at the annual conference of the Division of Occupational Psychology. This report was covered in the national press, in both the Sun and the Daily Mail. It’s really heartening to see studies on mental health and wellbeing gaining ever-greater prominence in the media, especially those that involve singing!
This study is successful in further emphasising what, at on:song, we regularly experience as some of the major benefits of a workplace choir, namely, reducing stress and diminishing feelings of social isolation.
According to a 2018 Mental Health Foundation study, 74% of people have at some stage felt so stressed that have been overwhelmed or unable to cope. That is an extraordinarily high number, and yet there is such an easily achieved way of counteracting it: singing!
When we sing we take in more oxygen and exhale greater levels of carbon dioxide, calming the nervous system and reducing stress. The deep breaths we take when we sing also improve brain circulation, which in turn improves concentration and memory, and makes us feel more awake and energised.
Singing also reduces stress by taking our minds away from the cause of the stress, even if just temporarily. Singing is a very complex process which sees us simultaneously managing pitch, tempo, rhythm, dynamic and lyrics, essentially (and generally unknowingly) putting the brain into a state of what in positive psychology is known as flow, or being in the zone. This means it’s almost impossible to think about anything else in the moment, distancing our minds from, and giving respite from, the stress. Couple this with the rush of endorphins which singing releases, and you have a fast track route to feeling relaxed and uplifted, and one that can be easily done in the office!
The report also talks of how singing reduces feelings of social isolation, which, ironically, is increasingly prevalent in our hyper-connected and digitally saturated world. Regular social contact is vital, and regular singing group activity is fantastic of achieving this, bringing people together over a common goal which makes all members feel valued. Singing in a group helps us to build trust in those around us, necessitating teamwork and bonding through shared endeavour. Further to this, a workplace choir has the unique ability to temporarily flatten hierarchy and suspend established work relations. We recently witnessed an admin assistant helping out the CFO with his tricky tenor part, wry smiles abounded. It’s difficult to overestimate the incredibly important effect that an interaction like this can have.
It’s important that research into mental health, stress and social isolation such as this continues to be reported nationally, to ensure these important issues remain the forefront of people’s attention, as this is a major issue of our times. There is still a long way to go before all companies have a carefully considered wellbeing strategy.
As Joanna says, “Organisations should seriously consider encouraging their staff to regularly participate in singing groups to improve wellbeing, engagement and potentially job performance.”
We couldn’t agree more.