Dr. Alina Paul has been singing for as long as she can remember. He added guitar while attending boarding school in India.
Fast forward to 2023, and OSF HealthCare’s family medicine physician finds himself singing for patients who ask for it to brighten their day.
“It has changed the way I treat patients,” said Dr. Paul with conviction. “Singing and playing the guitar is medicine. It is medicine for the soul.”
Listening to those tunes is not just a temporary respite for the person undergoing the checkup. Dr. Paul says research shows that singing has lasting health benefits.
• Pain levels, both physical and mental, may decrease. For people suffering from anxiety and depression, singing can increase the level of endorphins, the “feel-good hormone,” according to Dr. Paul. This brings them out of a sad mood.
• Some research shows that singing boosts immunity by increasing levels of the antibody immunoglobulin A. This antibody helps fight respiratory and other infections, Dr. Paul said.
• It helps your lungs work better.
“We use our lungs to sing. We took a deep breath. Some movement of the chest wall can help the function of the lungs,” said Dr. Paul.
• Some research has found that singing can help prevent mild dementia, Dr. Paul said.
“That’s amazing,” he said. “We see a lot of patients with dementia. If you involve singing or even singing to them, their memory seems to improve. They are happier,” added Dr. Paul.
• Dr. Paul says that singing increases oxytocin, the so-called “love hormone.” It helps with social cohesion and a sense of belonging.
• Singing also improves public speaking skills, especially when you sing in front of others. Simply put, the more you use your voice, the more comfortable you will be with it.
Keep your well-being in mind
Dr. Paul says there are some obvious, but important health things to remember if you choose to sing.
• If singing hurts your lungs or throat, take a break. If minor symptoms persist, go to an urgent care. For things like trouble breathing, chest pain or loss of consciousness, call 9-1-1.
• If you are sick, don’t sing – or do much else – around others. When we speak words, our mouth releases microparticles that can carry diseases. And if you are sick, you need to rest and heal.
• Be kind to your neighbors, like in an apartment building. Don’t sing loudly all the time.
How do I start?
Don’t feel like you have to run and join a choir, Dr. Paul said. And don’t worry if your vocal skills aren’t Grammy-worthy.
“Don’t think of it as an exercise. Don’t do it because you have to. Do it because you want to do it,” advises Dr. Paul.
Try singing while in the car or in the shower. Go karaoke with friends. You don’t need music. Try belting out your favorite acapella song while cleaning the house. Dr. Paul says closing your eyes helps focus on the activity.
“Anyone can sing. Make a point of singing. It’s like meditation. It is very useful,” said Dr. Paul.