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Wellbeing and Singing

So a while back I had the flu and felt generally quite groggy and tired cause of lots of travelling, singing, flying, dehydration and sleep depravation. I was reminded of when and why I began this music journey. I started singing loads around the time when my dad left us as a family (around age 11) and I am so grateful to God for giving me the gift of music during a hard time so I could process pain and suffering through it. Singing has always given me great joy whether it was singing happy or sad songs. It has been a tool for me to process emotion and helped my sense of wellbeing.

I want other people to benefit from singing too, which is why I love being a vocal coach. I originally started teaching Skype lessons in order to expand my teaching business and tap into helping touring singers as well as reaching out to different countries. In addition to this I’m very passionate about encouraging people with singing as a tool for wellbeing and health.

A few months ago, after posting about my online lessons, I was contacted by a lovely girl called Megan. Megan is a 20-year-old singer/songwriter who struggles with ME/CFS (Myalgic encephalomyelitis, commonly referred to as chronic fatigue syndrome) ‘ME’ is a very tough illness, as it is not seen on the outside. It is very debilitating and means chronic exhaustion and lots of other symptoms that can really affect the life quality of those who suffer from it. Getting to know Megan has been an eye-opening experience and given me insight into the challenge chronic fatigue brings. Her specialist said that she is currently too unwell to have lessons, so we are awaiting some stabilisation so we can get started.

Below is a short message from my student Helen Kewell who has also been diagnosed with ME. She has experienced that singing lessons were a great tool for wellness on her journey of recovery, please read below: “When I was first diagnosed I felt so useless, my old way of having fun and developing myself was to exercise and suddenly this wasn't available to me. I also felt like I'd lost part of myself. By taking up singing I could learn something new, create a new part of me, without exhausting myself and also feel like I could still strive for something. The other way singing helped was that by the discipline of breathing well and sound-making I was able to bring myself back to my body and tap into it's emotionality, something I had lost the ability to do in the years leading up to my illness. And then the last thing was the emotional healing... Sarah you are so good at helping people sing with intent, to feel into the songs and I felt that by singing songs that spoke to my life story and experiences it was a form of therapy, a release of my emotions as it were. This has definitely helped me to heal and recover. In fact the singing journey I went on has meant I have written a few of my own original songs and got out some of what I want to say about my life, my experience and my recovery. I started my own little hashtag #singingiswinning which helped me to frame just how powerful the influence of singing has been on my life. Thank you for being with me and walking this journey, I couldn't have done it without you!”

Here is an extract from research by Rachel B. Goldenberg on how singing affects well-being in patients, sent to me by one of my students: Singing Lessons for Respiratory Health: A Literature Review Objective. Several studies have explored the role of music and singing as a treatment for respiratory symptoms. The objective of this paper was to review the current body of literature in regard to the use of singing as both a physiological and a psychological therapy for respiratory disease and assess the role the singing teacher might play in this treatment.Method. Multiple databases were searched using keywords such as “respiratory,” “physiotherapy,” and “pulmonary” in conjunction with “singing.” Studies that met selection criteria were summarized and analyzed.Results. Seventeen studies pertaining to multiple conditions including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, cystic fibrosis, cancer, Parkinson disease, quadriplegia, and multiple sclerosis were analyzed. All studies reported trends of positive physical and/or quality of life outcomes after a series of singing lessons, regardless of statistical significance. Several noted improvements in maximum expiratory pressure and overall breathing technique. Many studies included open-ended interviews revealing participants’ perception of singing as an effective therapy that was fun, improved mood, taught breathing and breath control, was a good exercise for the lungs, and had improved physical functioning. Conclusions. Singing can be used as an adjunctive treatment for respiratory disease, with the best results occurring after long-term study. Group lessons and a strong teacher relationship feed the need for social interaction and support, which can facilitate treatment compliance. Further research is warranted. Rachel B. Goldenberg, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

What I want to communicate is that whether you are a performer, vocal coach or someone who wants to start singing, we need to be aware of the fact that some people may not be able to pursue the performance dream in a way that they once hoped for. Let’s start using the gift of singing, not just in the conventional way, but also in order to stay healthy. For some this might call for a more creative mindset in terms of how we can teach, train, sing and perform. One of the creative solutions is online lessons and performing. Please don’t hesitate to get in contact with me if you have further ideas or want help.

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