Better mental health through singing 

A psychologist and a musical expert explain why singing can boost your mental health, and Jane describes how joining a singing group helped her deal with her phobia of driving.

Find out how to fight your fears

Transcript of Better mental health through singing

(people harmonise)

The backstreets of Folkestone,

hardly the likeliest of places to find a revolutionary new approach

to health care taking shape.

- (all harmonise) - It may look and sound

like simple singing, but only now are its benefits being realised.

We are tapping into one of the greatest things of our culture,

that is the whole tradition of choral singing.

Professor of Music at Canterbury Christ Church University,

Grenville Hancox, has teamed up

with health professional, Professor Stephen Clift.

There are different kinds of issues effecting different groups in society,

but singing is a kind of universal activity

that people can engage in from birth onwards, literally.

Together the two run the Sydney De Haan Research Centre for Arts and Health.

Today, they've invited Dr Maria Sandgren, a Swedish psychologist,

to present the results of a new study.

I'm going to talk about a very recent study about choral singing.

We made it last year with 218 choral singers in Stockholm.

Here you can see the measure before.

She measured their emotional state before and after singing.

And this is afterwards.

It was quite unbelievable.

We could see

that every positive emotion increased.

I mean, the intensity.

Like "excited, alert, hopeful, relaxed, harmonic,

to be present."

One might say that the positive emotions increased a lot,

but the negative emotions decreased even more.

And look at "pain".

It decreased enormously.


So, you know, we're pretty good at the MOT-type activities in health,

we can replace the hip and that's great,

but it's very difficult to replace the emotional heart.

We have to look at other ways of doing that.

- (all sing) - (woman) Come on!

It's something that comes as no surprise to Jane.

- Stop! - Jane has a phobia about driving.

It happened around the time when I was being bullied, really,

not in a big way, but I felt under pressure at work.

(woman) One, two, three. And...

I was pregnant at the time and everything came at once

So it wasn't really one thing it was a set of things

that tended to happen around the same time.

I just felt my nerve going.

I thought, "I don't like this journey, it's too fast."

And it went downhill from there, really, and I just lost confidence.

I ended up not being able to drive above 30.

This is comfortable, yeah. (laughs) I can do this. Probably get it up to 35.

She joined the Brighton City Singers, an amateur choir.

(all sing)

It's producing a sound from your own mouth

that then is reverberated by others in your group

and you produce a huge sound.

We could also see that they felt more together

after the choral singing and also less alone.

Choral singing is definitely a very social phenomenon and that proved it.

(conductor) I'm looking right at you, reading my words too. OK?

Ready? Everybody ready?

It's changed my life, basically. I know it sounds really dramatic,

but that's what happened.

Phobias can tend to be all dominating in your life

and I was very much out of control with it.

And I'm not any more. And I think that's probably one of the biggest messages,

that you can get some kind of control back again in your own life.

(woman) One, two, three, four.

Even though many people feel they're not able to sing,

- with sufficient encouragement... - And... (hits high note)

..everybody can sing. It costs nothing.

And it can have very dramatic and very rapid effects on people's mood state.

And I've always been convinced of the power of music

to change people's lives.

I'm more relaxed.I don't actually care that I can't reach 40mph any more.

So I think it's shifted the nature of the problem.

And so it's not the all-focusing thing that it was.

- (all sing) - Yes!

- (all laugh) - Going on! And...!


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