I don’t drink or smoke, but I do get high! The fact is that since I was of a drinking age I have got high on singing, especially singing with other people in shows, choirs, groups and so on. The joy and bliss I feel when I sing is at a whole other level and the positive effects just keep compounding.
When I was fourteen I desperately wanted to have singing lessons and my best friend started sessions. One night after school I went to her place and asked her to teach me one of the songs she had learnt. She told me that I should never bother having singing lessons as I was not good enough! I believed her (just like many of us believed it when we were told we couldn’t sing), but finally in Year 11 I got up the courage to audition for the Chorus of the school musical, Oklahoma. I received the lead role. Singing has been the greatest joy, passion and sustenance to me ever since.
Can’t sing? Won’t sing? Told not to sing? Like me, about 85% of people have been told by their parents, children, partners or teachers that they can’t sing. Our voices have been silenced and it’s not doing us any good.
There was a time when everyone used to sing. We sat around campfires, at church and at school. We sang our stories and our dreams. Nowadays not many of us sing. We worry that people will think we are strange or that we will be judged and not as good as the celebrities we idolise.
Singing is not about being a star or knowing how to do it well. It’s about enjoying the gift of our voices and sharing them with others. We were born to sing. It’s primal and it’s tribal. Voice is the language of our hearts. It’s how we express ourselves. And it’s very important to our mental, physical and social wellbeing. We need to listen to and include the diverse voices in our community.
Creativity Australia’s With One Voice choirs welcome people aged 9 to 90, from all faiths, cultures and backgrounds. Through the program’s unique social inclusion model, and the Wish List, diverse participants can connect to friends, mentors, wellbeing, joy, new skills and jobs.
My TED Talk How Singing Together Changes The Brain has sparked international interest, with pilot With One Voice programs now under development around Australia and globally. Creativity Australia won the 2016 Melbourne Award for Contribution to Community by a Community Organisation and been named in the Anthill Smart 100 Innovations for the past 5 years.
|“Something happened at the choir last week – I let go of my fears, inhibitions, self-consciousness; and the child within me came to the forefront. I thought ‘wow, I can sing, I am doing alright, I am part of a large choir’, and my confidence kept growing. I feel on top of the world!” Marie|
Sing From The Heart, Spark Your Brain
Neuroscience proves that group singing makes us happier, healthier, smarter and more creative. Every time you sing, you fire up the right temporal lobe of your brain, and release endorphins including oxytocin which result in heightened states of pleasure, bliss, bonding and love.
These chemicals also enhance neuroplasticity of our brains, boost our immune system, fight illness, depression and strokes and help us handle pain better. What’s more, choral singers have been shown to have enhanced learning skills, synchronised heartbeats and enter patterns of yogic breathing. So what better activity for one’s mental health than a daily dose of song? Singing together is a super-dooper drug that integrates the mind and body and helps to heal our brains and enhance our learning abilities! And it’s free because we all have a voice!
We spend about 85% of our time in the left side of our brain, which deals with logic and analytics. This drains our mental battery. The right side of our brains, which deals with intuition, emotion, creativity and fantasy, needs to be recharged. Activities which recharge our brains include meditation, being in nature, connecting with loved ones and – you guessed it – singing with others!
Ten reasons to make singing your drug of choice:
- Release endorphins and increases levels of oxytocin
- Improve posture, breathing and blood-flow
- Save money: our voice is our free human instrument
- Create new neural pathways and improve brain meta-plasticity
- Ward off age-related decline by continuously ‘exercising’ your brain
- Heal depression, strokes and speech abnormalities
- Promote social bonding and cohesion; and rediscover your own identity
- Relieve mental health issues; feel happier, better connected and supported
- Connect with other diverse voices and your community
- Be smarter, healthier, happier and more creative
A Song For The Future
Our brains developed with singing and music as a survival mechanism. Before there were governments or nations, tribes and groups used songs and dance to build loyalty to the group, transmit vital information and ward off enemies. Those who sang survived.
As workaday stress and media consumption make us ever more isolated, rates of anxiety and depression rise. So, it is fundamentally important to nurture the attributes of humans that set us apart from machines, love, compassion, creativity, courage and so on. When we regularly engage in singing and other creative pursuits, we build bridges of understanding between diverse people and feel part of a bigger, connected universe.
Happy, healthy, empowered individuals and supportive communities are better-placed to solve some of society’s biggest challenges, such as mental illness, loneliness and isolation, cultural tension and unemployment.
Together, we can change the world… one voice at a time.
|“It’s cost me virtually nothing, and yet it’s given me a new dimension in my life completely – as it has the rest of us. You can’t buy that.” Gerard|
How To Find Your Voice
- Join your With One Voice choir at creativityaustralia.org.au
- Immerse yourself in diverse music, concerts, bands, musicals, chanting… you name it!
- Get creative, write your own song and sing it with others
Do good. Feel good. Sing for good.
|“Sing like no one’s listening, love like you’ve never been hurt, dance like no one’s watching and live like it’s heaven on earth.” Mark Twain|
Tania de Jong AM is an acclaimed Australian soprano and one of Australia’s most successful female entrepreneurs and innovators developing 5 businesses and 2 charities over the past 3 decades. She is the Founder of Creative Universe, Creativity Australia, Creative Innovation Global, Dimension5 co-working hub, MTA Entertainment & Events, Pot-Pourri and The Song Room. Tania presents keynote speeches and performs around the world. She has released 10 albums. She works across the public, private, creative and community sectors. Tania’s TED Talk How Singing Together Changes The Brain has sparked international interest.
Tania’s mission is to change the world, one voice at a time!
Twitter: @TaniadeJong @CreativityAust