Things We Take For Granted – Like Singing

Today we begin to look at aspects of Christian worship that contribute to our well being. Worship here refers to both a lifestyle as well as carrying out actions that honor Jesus.

One such aspect of Christian worship is singing

Singing from the heart to God in music is a significant part of a lifestyle that honours Jesus. We will use singing and music interchangeably in a rather loose sense in this article. Singing has been an essential part of the church from its very beginnings. It is part of Christian form of worship to God Almighty. It is not only what a Christian does in church. A true Christian will always be in a mode of worship wherever they are, for the kingdom of God is in the heart (Luke 17:21).

Singing in the church is primarily what we do in adoration of Jesus. The bible says God inhabits in the praises of His people (Ps 22:3). It is our spiritual act of worship.

While we sing primarily to God, we also end up reaping benefits to ourselves in the process. Music is to the soul what the word of God is to the spirit of man. Singing engages all aspects of the soul: mind, emotions and will. I am not advocating that we therefore engage in singing only when we feel low to make us feel good or to direct music only toward our selfish ends.

In the bible, we see the young man named David called to the palace of King Saul to play music on his musical instrument to calm the king’s nerves in what appears to be moments of mental distress (1 Sam 16:23).

Indeed of recent years, there is a growing body of research in the field of neuro-psychiatry about the role of music as an alternative form of treatment for mental illness. You may wish to refer to a book by Unkefer R.F & Thaut M.H, titled “Music Therapy in the treatment of Adults with Mental Disorders: theoretical basis and clinical interventions”, if you are interested in exploring this area further. At the Maudsley Psychiatric Hospital a community choir has been going for the past few years for people who are in remission as part of the recovery process. The choir has sung at different levels of society as well as taking part in national music competitions.

Music is not only useful in bring healing and sanity to the mentally ill. It is also a powerful medium for maintaining the sanity and emotional health of people in society generally especially at a time of so much stress and anxiety. You may be aware of the power of music in transforming the lives of some of the wives of British soldiers who have been to war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In writing this article, I discovered that in the church, some research has been emerging since the beginning of 2000 toward this end, exploring the link between emotional or psychological wellbeing and church music. Notable in this area is the work of Professor Stephen Clift & Professor Greenville Hancox of Canterbury Christ Church University.

In a large cross-national survey of 1,124 choral singers from England, Germany and Australia, they sought to find the effects of singing on wellbeing and health (Clift, S & Hancox, G 2010). Among a range of questions, they asked the following:

1. what effects, if any, does singing in a choir have on your quality of life?
2. what effects, if any, does singing in a choir have on your psychological and social wellbeing?
3. what effects, if any, does singing in a choir have on your physical health?

As part of the research they also asked participants to state significant challenges in their lives which impact on their sense of personal wellbeing. Personal challenges were categorised as follows: mental health problems, significant family problems, physical health difficulties and bereavement. Among these, enduring mental health problems was the most commonly expressed challenge. The research found that not only is singing beneficial in dealing with the challenges reported, but also that singing works in such as way as to counter factors and processes that are potentially detrimental to wellbeing and health.

So for example they found that singing:

• made people happier and improved their mood;
• helped with focused concentration and blocking out personal preoccupations with sources of worry, promoting relaxation and relieving stress;
• helped with deep controlled breathing and can counteract anxiety and stress and gave a sense of fitness. An article in the Metro newspaper (dated July 9th 2013), reported similar findings by researchers at the university of Gothenburg in Sweden where they suggested that singing in a choir was as good as yoga in controlling breathing and regulating heartbeat and pulse;
• in a choir offers social support against feelings of isolation and loneliness, offering a wider sense of community and social inclusion;
• involved education and learning and therefore was a challenging and worthwhile activity for cognitive stimulation; and
• motivates people to stay physically active by virtue of the regular commitment to attend rehearsals.

These results confirm previous research findings in concerning church music and emotional wellbeing.

It is evident that music and singing have an important role to play in our psychological state of mind. In the church we may have taken this for granted in so far as the benefits it brings to our wellbeing.

So the next time you find yourself singing in the bathroom – do not pay attention to the croaky voice. You may be praising Jesus but you are also maintaining a healthy mind.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.