Taken from Livestrong.com
Since antiquity, humans have appreciated music's uplifting effects. Seventeenth century poet William Congreve alluded to its powers when he penned the much-quoted line "Music has charms to soothe a savage breast." Doctors are increasingly interested in the ability of music -- particularly singing -- to allay depression. Stephen Clift, director of the Sidney De Haan Research Centre at Canterbury Christ Church University in Kent, United Kingdom, says that singing offers dramatic benefits. "Singing together helps people with mental health issues feel happier, better connected with others and more supported," Clift asserts.
In a 2006 article in the "Journal of Dementia Care," Chreanne Montgomery-Smith, an officer with the West Berkshire branch of the Alzheimer's Society in England and the founder of Singing for the Brain, detailed the benefits of singing for depressed Alzheimer's patients. According to Montgomery-Smith, singing strengthens communication and relationships. Not only did patients benefit from the equalizing influence of working together under a choir director, they were able to make friends, find and give support, and gain feelings of empowerment from leading rounds of singing, or greeting or assisting new members. Montgomery-Smith noted that personal confidence also increased, a byproduct of the singers successfully remembering lyrics and improving vocal skills, such as proper phrasing, breathing and dynamics. Clift concurs that singing significantly increases well-being. "We have found striking improvement in mental health from involvement in choirs," Clift says.
Music also promotes concentration and attention, especially when singing from memory or performing simple rhythmic actions along with music. Singing may also help depressed people deal with painful feelings by allowing them to safely express emotions through evocative lyrics.
Music can cause beneficial changes in brain chemistry. Karen Wacks, clinical training coordinator of the Music Therapy Department at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, says that music is processed in the limbic region, the area responsible for integrating emotion and memory, and can reduce muscle tension and increase relaxation response. The National Institutes of Health states that the act of singing releases endorphins, increases the level of chemicals that build trust, and improves immune system respons. There is some empirical research supporting the belief that music lifts mood. In a study conducted by Christina Grape and colleagues and published in the January 2003 issue of "Integrative Physiological and Behavioral Science," concentrations of oxytocin -- the hormone responsible for bonding -- increased significantly in amatuer and professional singers after a singing lesson; singers also reported increased energy and relaxation after the lesson.