Research on choral singing and mental health
Recovering from mental health challenges concerns more than pills and interviews. Singing provides energy, a flow of endorphins and a more stable disposition.
The concept for a ”Sing Yourself Well” choir began to develop during a research project at North University in 2015, and builds on recovery as its professional basis. From April – June 2015, the researchers Grete Daling (Music director) og Arve Almvik (Project manager/health) interviewed participants in a research-choir to see weather their mental health. The method builds on recovery as its professional basis.
The first "Sing yourself well"-choir
The first choir consisted of 14 women og 5 men from the age of 20 - 60 years, and all of the participants had challenges with their mental health. They were given professional guidance on how to manage their voices, breath and muscles. Through gjennom weekly choir-practices, they learned many new songs, which they later also presented to an audience. The research was financed by HiNT (now Nord University) and the foundation Extrastiftelsen, by The Norwegian Council for Mental Health (NCMH)
The researchers focused on group interviews, where the participants were asked how they experienced being part of a "Sing yourself well"-choir. Among many interesting findings, the researchers found that the choir had influenced the members sense of mastery and social belonging - both during practise hours, but also in their everyday life.
Choir-singing boosts the energy
The researchers soon found that an important mentality in a “Sing Yourself Well” choir it that it is ok to have a bad day! Through working with voice, breath and body, each participant would learn to relax and unwind, smile, and increase their energy-levels. While singing one also stimulates inner muscles, and many choir members explained a feeling of relaxation and well being both during and after practise.
Mastery and well being
The choir-members explained in interviews how the mastering of voice techniques and exercises provided them with a little self esteem ”boost”. Through singing together with others in a safe and relaxed atmosphere, the participants recognised that they experienced more positive thoughts about themselves. The sense of achieving was also said to be transferred to other parts of their day to day routine, giving them a "better life".
The conductor plays an important role
Many of the participants highlighted their conductor, Grete Daling, and her positive mood and solution oriented approach as an important part of their experience. The most important features were her ability to create a safe atmosphere, where the choir members could feel well and included, even though they sometimes felt down and limited. This is also emphasised as an important part of stimulating the feeling of mastery, both as individuals and a group, even though failing and accheiving sometimes walked hand in hand.