Can singing while you work make you less stressed?
As the post-Christmas blues take hold in many offices around the country, could singing be the key to a less stressful work environment?
Academics from the University of Leicester recently published the findings of a new study, which examined what happened when office workers were asked to attend choir sessions at their workplace.
The people who took part were then quizzed on how singing with a choir had improved feelings of stress and isolation.
According to researcher Joanna Foster, 96% of those who took part said they felt a reduction in work-related stress and isolation.
Many of the participants also said they benefited from a greater level of support from the choir network, compared with support from colleagues or managers.
“While there is still much work to be done on the impact of singing in the workplace on stress and isolation, the initial findings are encouraging and warrant further research being carried out,” says Ms Foster.
“Certainly, thinking about the wholesale positive effects of singing, whether in or outside of work, the evidence shows that there are many benefits to participating in this type of activity, though this type of intervention might not be attractive to the people who would benefit most from it.”
Ms Foster says there is a “wealth of research” which demonstrates that singing as part of a group can increase both physical and mental wellbeing, and provide an alternative support network.
The act of singing has been found to lower heart rates and improve lung and cardiovascular health, and those in singing groups feel less stressed and more positive following a choir session.
“The hope is that there is a discernible link and the introduction of singing groups at work can improve employees’ reactions to stress and even impact on their discretionary effort; that is, they are more likely to go ‘above and beyond’ the role that they are expected and paid to do,” says Foster.
“The idea of providing additional support in the workplace can lead to lowered job strain, which ultimately benefits both the employee and the company respectively.”
The report follows a previous study by researchers from the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, which examined the health effects for choir members.
In December 2012, Björn Vickhoff and his research group brought together fifteen 18-year-olds at Hvitfeltska High School in Gothenburg and arranged for them to perform three different choral exercises: monotone humming, singing the well-known Swedish hymn “Härlig är is jorden” (Lovely is the Earth) as well as the chanting of a slow mantra. The heart rhythm of the choir members was registered as they performed in each case
The researchers’ discovered that singing can impose a calm and regular breathing pattern which has a dramatic effect on heart rate variability – something that, in its turn, is assumed to have a favourable effect on health.
“In the case of controlled breathing, the heart rate or pulse decreases when breathing out during exhalation in order to then increase again when breathing in during inhalation,” says Mr Vickhoff.
“This is due to breathing out Exhalation activates the vagus nerve that lowers the heart rate which slows down the heart. The medical term for this fluctuation in heart rate the connection between breathing and heart rate is RSA and it is more pronounced with young people in good physical condition and not subject to stress. Our hypothesis is that song is a form of regular, controlled breathing, since breathing out exhaling occurs on the song phrases and breathing in inhaling between these,” says Björn Vickhoff.
“One need only think of football stadiums, work songs, hymn singing at school, festival processions, religious choirs or military parades. Research shows that synchronised rites contribute to group solidarity. We are now considering testing choral singing as a means of strengthening working relationships in schools,” he adds.
Rock Choir – Free taster sessions
The UK’s largest contemporary choir, Rock Choir recently offered members of the British public a chance to beat the winter blues this January by taking part in free sessions across the UK.
Rock Choir has already attracted nearly 30,000 members nationwide and is recognised as an award-winning national brand.
“I regularly receive personal communication from Rock Choir Members who claim that their journey in Rock Choir has improved their lives or helped them in various ways to recover from personal issues and trauma,” says founder, Caroline Lusher.
“Rock Choir provides an exciting and life-affirming platform using music at its core and as a whole experience offers joy and friendship. I’m proud that, together with my team, I have built a unique experience that already has such a positive and dramatic effect on so many tens of thousands of the British public!
“I now want to help transform the well-being of the entire British Public by inviting everyone to step into Rock Choir and enjoy what is on offer; for everyone to feel good, well and happy. No one can escape the challenges that life throws at us but being on a positive, supportive, calm and happy platform will make those moments less painful. Targeting our mental health issues and finding healthy solutions is key and we can offer one solution and that is Rock Choir,” she adds.