Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Benefits of Song


The Benefits of Song



Psalm 40:3 reads, “And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and [stand in awe], and shall trust in the Lord.” Over and over the scriptures declare that Zion is home to those who sing “songs of everlasting joy” (Doctrine and Covenants 45:71). Zion’s people are a singing people, and God’s praises fill their mouths. The story of the Jaredites crossing the ocean to the Promised Land illustrates the power of such songs:
And it came to pass that they were many times buried in the depths of the sea, because of the mountain waves which broke upon them, and also the great and terrible tempests which were caused by the fierceness of the wind. . . . And they did sing praises unto the Lord; yea, the brother of Jared did sing praises unto the Lord, and he did thank and praise the Lord all the day long; and when the night came, they did not cease to praise the Lord. . . . And when they had set their feet upon the shores of the promised land they bowed themselves down upon the face of the land, and did humble themselves before the Lord, and did shed tears of joy before the Lord, because of the multitude of his tender mercies over them. (Ether 6:6-12)
It took 344 days for the Jaredites to reach the Promised Land. They sang without ceasing for 344 days, and I have a hunch that it wasn’t just because they liked singing. That voyage had the potential to be a frightening one as the waves beat incessantly upon the vessels, but there’s no doubt that singing helped bring peace to the Jaredites’ hearts and minds.
When you use your voice as a sound instrument, powerful things happen inside of you, such as the following:
  • Your heart rate decreases.
  • Your blood pressure decreases.
  • Your stress/fear hormones decrease.
  • Your body enhances the release of endorphins.[1]
Research indicates that singing or chanting phrases that facilitate six breaths per minute (breathing at ten-second intervals) produces the most favorable psychological and physiological effects.[2]
Singing with a group brings even more benefits. A recent study conducted in Turkey found that singing in a choir is associated with reduced anxiety levels.[3] When individuals sing in a group setting, they become unified through the music’s harmony and rhythm, and they also become unified within their bodies. Research shows that when people sing together, their heart rates synchronize.[4] Perhaps this synchronization is one reason that Zion’s people sing: “The Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind” (Moses 7:18). Singing makes many hearts as one. According to a team of Swedish researchers, “this synchronicity can produce a sense of calm that is similar to the effects of yoga.”[5] It is interesting to note that structured, slow chants “were found to induce a stronger synchrony in the singers’ heartbeats.”[6]
May we join with the Psalmist who wrote: "I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the Lord" (Psalm 104:33–34).

[1] Dharma Singh Khalsa and Cameron Stauth, Meditation as Medicine: Activate the Power of Your Natural Healing Force  (New York: Fireside, 2001), 114.
[2] Luciano Bernardi, Peter Sleight, Gabriele Bandinelli, SImone Cencetti, Lamberto Fattorini, Johanna Wdowczyc-Szulc, and Alfonso Lagi, “Effect of Rosary Prayer and Yoga Mantras on Autonomic Cardiovascular Rhythms: Comparative Study,” BMJ 323, no. 7327: 1446–1449, accessed March 24, 2014,  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC61046.
[3] “Choir Singing Could Help Reduce Anxiety, Study Finds,” Huffington Post, April 28, 2013. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/28/choir-singing-anxiety-_n_3147861.html.
[4] Chris Palmer, “Choir SIngers Synchronize Heartbeats,” Scientist, July 10, 2013. http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/36412/title/Choir-Singers-Synchronize-Heartbeats.
[5] Claire Groden, “Many Hearts, One Beat: SInging SIncs Up Heart Rates,” Time, July 10, 2013. http://healthland.time.com/2013/07/10/many-hearts-one-beat-singing-synchs-up-heart-rates.
[6] Palmer, “Choir SIngers Synchronize Heartbeats.”

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