When I was a boy my hero was my father, but my idol was Elvis Presley. I’d often fantasize about being a singer and if anyone were to ask me today, even at age 55, I’d tell them being a singer is still my fantasy profession.
Recently, both my sister and wife sent me information about the benefits of singing. This information is based on scientific study published by the University of Melbourne, Australia. According to their studies, singing is a natural form of therapy. Large parts of the brain are activated when one sings. These areas include motor networks, auditory or listening networks, planning or organizational networks, memory networks, language networks, and emotional networks. Who would have thought that so many complicated networks would engage for something we find so easy to do. Yet, what is so remarkable about singing is we also activate our reward network and those emotions lead to the release of dopamine, the feel good chemical for the brain, and that brings protective, or neuro-protective benefits for our mental health.
- Lifts our mood
- Gives networks a workout
- Provides protective, or neuro-protective benefits for our mental health
- Releases dopamine
After reading all of this it dawned on me why, in large part, I enjoyed singing in church choir and doing karaoke on the weekends. IT FELT GOOD! It was more than my version of being Elvis – it was all the benefits spoken of in that university research.
Now, coincident with receiving this information from my sister and wife, I am reading the book of Psalms. The Psalms are all songs so it made me wonder what the Bible says about singing, or more accurately, how is singing used or referenced.
According to Strong’s Concordance, there are 237 occurrences of the words sang, sing, singing and song in the Bible. Additionally, six Psalms tell us to make a joyful noise unto the Lord [Psalms 33, 66, 81, 95, 98,100]. God clearly wants us to sing His praises and He placed within us a reward network for doing so! He wants us to feel good about this too. In every church I’ve attended, including many non-Catholic, hymns are an integral part of the services. I always enjoyed participating in the singing and often felt an exhilaration of emotion that lasted well beyond the end of the song.
I have a small Catholic prayer book and in it are several prayers of worship wherein it is encouraged that the prayers be sung. When I was being held in county jail awaiting sentencing and transfer to a Federal prison I was kept in a single man cell and because no one could hear me I sang these and other prayers and it felt good and right to do so.
So I wonder – should I begin singing at least a portion of my prayers from now on? God gave us a means (voice) to praise Him with a joyful noise and He rewards us instantly for doing so. Maybe it’s time to sing again. Won’t you join me? It will do your body – and your soul – good.