SING YOUR WAY OUT OF STRESS!
BY DEBBIE ALMOCERA
I love to sing. There was a time when I thought I was good at it. I remember having benefit concerts in my college days whose main attraction were my friends and I – a bunch of delusional wannabes drowning in our own grandiosity. It was a daring time.
Unfortunately, my friends and I are now immersed in lives completely different from what we originally envisioned. We didn’t become professional singers, nor did we achieve stardom beyond our wildest dreams. Whenever we get together, we reminisce and laugh at our “misfortune” of not being able to adhere to our original calling – to become rock stars for the masses! Instead, we raised kids, worked day in and day out, and got credit cards and mortgages that bound us eternally to a nine-to-five job. Our singing dreams went up in smoke and into the shower.
The value of music cannot be understated. Singing, listening to, or playing music are effective tools in coping with stress and venting emotional frustration. Music relieves stress, and boosts memory and learning.
Studies compiled by Northwestern University researchers reveal significant benefits acquired from early musical training and experience. Children who have early musical training evidently have a more developed vocabulary, and better reading ability . They appear to be more focused and attentive in school. Studies with older adults with lifelong musical experiences and skills indicated slowed memory losses .
Music appears to help trigger memory of certain events in life. They have also found out that playing a musical instrument sharpens one’s auditory ability to distinguish speech and sound . Apparently, somebody with musical skills can detect emotion in sound better than those who have no musical talent whatsoever.
I have experimented on using music with Alzheimer’s patients to calm them down, when they appear restless and agitated. I have noticed immediate calming effects. However, I think more studies still have done in this area.
Although there is a significant amount of research that shows evidence of the positive impact of music in mood, we don’t have to be scientists and scholars to know that music is a mood enhancer. Music makes us happy, and helps make us feel relaxed. Whether you want to feel romantic and ecstatic, or wallow in self-pity and despondency, music would set off these emotions like an arrow to a target. Listen to a dancing beat, and you will find yourself bobbing your head, and tapping you toes. Listen to sad melodies, and you remember the time you nursed a broken heart.
Once again, music facilitates the release of “feel good” hormones and neurotransmitters in the brain, particularly oxytocin and serotonin.
I learned to play the drums not because I wanted to bang on things (although I do question this sometimes), but because I was fascinated by the simplicity of an instrument that gives pulse to music. I was amazed at how drums could carry the beat of a song, by a simple repeated note. I look at drum sets and admire the combination of pieces that diversify a beat. In the process of learning how to play, I found out that playing (or banging in things), is an effective stress management technique. Since then, I have committed to become a drummer.
But I will keep on singing. Hopefully so would my friends, unless they have plunged completely into the abyss of hopelessness when it comes to their singing aspirations. Whether you can sing well or not, (most of us think we can, including me, to the dismay of my daughters, and perhaps all my friends), do not hesitate to bellow out a note to the top of your lungs, and declare your operatic skills to the Gods. Trust me, you will feel better.
Debbie Almocera is a licensed therapist working in the behavioral medicine department of one of the largest hospitals in St. Louis, Missouri. For her, there has not been a more fulfilling and rewarding career than the one she has now. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org