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Research on choral singing and mental health

Recovering from mental health challenges concerns more than pills and interviews. Singing provides energy, a flow of endorphins and a more stable disposition. 

The research

The concept for a ”Sing Yourself Well” choir began to develop during a research project at North University in 2015, and builds on recovery as its professional basis. From April – June 2015, the researchers Grete Daling (Music director) og Arve Almvik (Project manager/health) interviewed participants in a research-choir to see weather their mental health. The method builds on recovery as its professional basis.


The first "Sing yourself well"-choir

The first choir consisted of 14 women og 5 men from the age of 20 - 60 years, and all of the participants had challenges with their mental health. They were given professional guidance on how to manage their voices, breath and muscles. Through gjennom weekly choir-practices, they learned many new songs, which they later also presented to an audience. The research was financed by HiNT (now Nord University) and the foundation Extrastiftelsen, by The Norwegian Council for Mental Health (NCMH)


The researchers focused on group interviews, where the participants were asked how they experienced being part of a "Sing yourself well"-choir. Among many interesting findings, the researchers found that the choir had influenced the members sense of mastery and social belonging - both during practise hours, but also in their everyday life. 

Choir-singing boosts the energy

The researchers soon found that an important mentality in a “Sing Yourself Well” choir it that it is ok to have a bad day! Through working with voice, breath and body, each participant would learn to relax and unwind, smile, and increase their energy-levels. While singing one also stimulates inner muscles, and many choir members explained a feeling of relaxation and well being both during and after practise.



Mastery and well being

The choir-members explained in interviews how the mastering of voice techniques and exercises provided them with a little self esteem ”boost”. Through singing together with others in a safe and relaxed atmosphere, the participants recognised that they experienced more positive thoughts about themselves. The sense of achieving was also said to be transferred to other parts of their day to day routine, giving them a "better life".

The conductor plays an important role

Many of the participants highlighted their conductor, Grete Daling, and her positive mood and solution oriented approach as an important part of their experience. The most important features were her ability to create a safe atmosphere, where the choir members could feel well and included, even though they sometimes felt down and limited. This is also emphasised as an important part of stimulating the feeling of mastery, both as individuals and a group, even though failing and accheiving sometimes walked hand in hand.

Choir, people with mental health problems

"I've never been one to stand in front of people and sing, but I am very fond of music. So here, I can feel safe and positive."


"I think it has something with the fact that you become more secure in yourself, that is, you receive confirmation and you find yourself in a safe place to be"


"It was the music that meant most. The singing and breathing exercises were what meant the most; the focus was not on the difficulties we had at other times"


"It's just like digesting it and opening the locks a bit and little stuff like that then. If you think about the mental bit. And as well, it gives me joy and a sense of coping"


"If you are a bit heavy-hearted one day and remember you are going to choir practice in the evening, then I notice that when I go home it's like "Whoa", I glide along so much more easily"


"But a good choir time should not be undervalued with its cheerful sunshine streaming at the doorway waiting to embrace you. That means a lot "


"I am not one who talks much with people.  But I notice that in the singing we come a little bit closer to each other and so it becomes a pleasant point of contact"


"You just feel better when you come through the door and you get a look or a smile or whatever, so I don't think it will be so much mumbo jumbo in what I do then. You just be yourself "


"You just feel that when you've been there ... you feel that someone has a use for you... otherwise the day goes as usual, usual even if there's a lot going on; but it is something special. And so, you get something extra in your day"


"Um ... it has helped me in terms of building the self-confidence I need to be around other people that I don't know. And in a way you feel part of a community then"


"It has increased my quality of life because I'm not able to work anymore and there is so little to do, so then is it really good to have something like that in your life"

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