Facing the music: Why it feels so good to sing in the car

November 2, 2018

There’s nothing like belting out a song in the car to brace you for a hard day ahead—or to bring you back from the doldrums. You’ve probably experienced the euphoria of hopping into the car, turning the volume up on your favorite tune, and singing along like you’re performing at the Grammys. But you might not realize that it’s actually good for your health, the Huffington Post reported on November 1.

In fact, according to findings by researchers at Ashford University— an online for-profit school based in San Diego— music, alone, can increase antibodies that boost your immunity and protect your body against bacteria.

What’s more, the HuffPost reports, singing can induce a bunch of feel-good mental health effects—among them:

indeed, Connie Omari, a licensed professional counselor practicing in North Carolina and owner of Tech Talk Therapy, told the Huffington Post that she suggests singing and driving to her patients. The practice can be its own form of meditation and can help to quiet a racing mind. “By listening to music,” she said, “drivers are [given] an opportunity to replace negative thoughts with more [positivity] through the use of rhythm and beats.” she said.

And because driving alone for long periods of time can have negative effects (some research has found it increases the risk of depression), Omari said singing and driving on a regular basis can help to slightly alleviate some of those issues.

“Most people feel the effects of oxytocin when they’re hugging someone or in the beginning stages of a romantic relationship,” Ziskind noted. “Oxytocin initiates emotions like trust, a sense of stability, and even relaxation.

“It boosts mood and uplifts mood,” she said, adding that oxytocin isn’t the only happy hormone that is released when you’re blasting your favorite tunes. “Studies have shown [e.g., a study published in the journal Nature in 2014] that simply thinking about listening to your favorite song, before you actually listen, releases serotonin, another feel-good chemical in your brain that reduces anxiety.”

  • The dopamine released when you sing can reduce your road rage. In addition to the other feel-good hormones mentioned above, you’re also releasing a hefty dose of dopamine. Kristen Fuller, a physician and clinical mental health writer for Center For Discovery, a treatment center in California, told the HuffPost that dopamine is the kind of neurotransmitter you want if you face a lot of traffic during your commute, because it has an effect on your emotions—producing sensations of pleasure.

“Dopamine boosts your motivation and drive,” Fuller said. “This happy mood can result in less road rage and friendlier driving — which can potentially lead to [fewer] accidents.”

  • Singing releases tension in your diaphragm more naturally than taking deep breaths. When you are anxious, a good remedy is to take long, deep breaths—bBut singing along to your favorite song might be even better than inhaling and exhaling.

Loretta G. Breuning, founder of the Inner Mammal Institute in San Francisco, told the daily news outlet that singing actually relieves tension that can build up in your diaphragm. Tension happens when your body believes you’re being threatened, even if the only danger is being late for work.

“Shallow breathing is a common response to tension,” Breuning said. “It can become a habit, and even though you’re not doing it consciously, it reinforces the sense that you’re threatened. Deeper breaths feel good, but natural ones feel better than forced ones. That’s what singing does.”

  • Singing can help you with unprocessed emotions. Even if the song you’re listening to happens to be sad, it can still help you process your emotions in a healthy way. Depending on your mood, different kinds of musiccan feel almost therapeutic, according to a course taught at Penn State University.

Music is emotionally evocative and helps bring up emotions you might have otherwise avoided for a long time, said Nick Hobson, director of science at the coaching service Psychology Compass, an online “cognition calculator.”

“It’s for this exact reason why music therapy is showing promising results for helping people deal with anxiety, depression and PTSD,” Hobson told the HuffPost.

Research contact: @emilyblackwood

 

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