Leadership

Singing in a choir could be 'the new exercise'—here’s the surprising science behind why

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"Exercise is one of the few activities in life that is indisputably good for us," writes Daniel H. Pink in his new book, "When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing." "Choral singing might be the new exercise."

"Choral singing calms the heart and boosts endorphin levels. It improves lung function. It increases pain thresholds and reduces the need for pain medication," Pink claims, citing research published in Evolution and Human Behavior. It also seems to improve your outlook, boosting mood and self-esteem while alleviating feelings of stress and depression.

These aren't simply effects of singing. "People who sing in a group report far higher well-being than those who sing solo," he notes. It's about synchronizing with others. Rowers and dancers have similarly shown a greater capacity to endure pain when performing in time with others.

What can explain this? According to Pink, it's due to the sense of belonging that synchronizing with others brings.

He cites the work of Roy Baumeister and Mark Leary, social psychologists who came up with the "belongingness hypothesis" in 1995, and claimed that the "need to belong is a fundamental human motivation… and that much of what human beings do is done in the service of belongingness."

Emily Esfahani Smith, a psychology instructor at the University of Pennsylvania, furthered this point in a TED Talk last year, as CNBC Make It reported. "Meaning comes from belonging to and serving something beyond yourself and from developing the best within you," she said.

She recommends forming "relationships where you're valued for who you are intrinsically and where you value others as well."

Achieving belonging is also a "personal mantra" of Richard Branson. "Happiness has a true sense of simplicity. Its root is not from what you own, but from what drives your soul and inspires your sense of belonging."

Belonging shapes your outlook, writes Pink: "Its absence leads to ill effects, its presence to health and satisfaction." Singing with others provides that. It involves being in perfect time with your voice and apparently your heart, too.

When Pink asks David Simmons, the artistic director of the Congressional Chorus in Washington D.C., why he believes people sing in groups, Simmons responds, "It makes people feel like they're not alone in the world."

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