Listening to gospel music, drumming, playing in a praise band, chanting, singing hymns… Music plays a central role in the life of faith communities.
Music does more than enhance the spiritual wellbeing of congregants, though. It also offers numerous health benefits. For example:
- Listening to music can inspire us to move and dance – activities that can strengthen our heart and improve circulation.
- Singing releases endorphins, a feel-good brain hormone that can help promote positive feelings.
- Participation with others in music can help us feel the same kind of camaraderie and bonding players on a sports team experience, studies show.
“Music is a way that we as humans relate,” says Elisabeth Bombell, a board-certified music therapist with Advocate Aurora Health Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn, Ill. “Music is found in many cultures; and while it may not all sound the same, music-making is a way we can relate to one another and build relationships.”
This is especially true in faith communities, Elisabeth says. “Faith communities provide a space where people who share similarities and come from multiple walks of life gather to sing, create music and participate in rituals. Music brings a community together.”
Congregants may hesitate to get involved in music because they lack the training or have deep-seated fears, she said.
“Music-making does come with a lot of fear and aversions, especially as our culture in America regards music to be elite,” Elisabeth says. “You must go through training to perform in a symphony or opera, so there could be a lot of fear around participating. Any point in childhood, comments like, ‘You can’t sing,’ ‘You don’t have music skills,’ or ‘You don’t have rhythm,’ can be deep-seated and follow us forever.”
Faith communities can address this by creating a warm and welcoming space for all, especially children, Elisabeth says.
“Similar to positive parenting and caregiving – make sure to lift up children’s strengths and give them the opportunity to explore and play within music,” Elisabeth says. “It is really important to make sure that the play stays alive as the child grows.”
The health benefits of music
Music brings joy to our lives, energizes us, and lightens our mood. But did you know music also offers numerous health benefits? For example:
Listening to music:
- helps calm us when feeling anxious
- inspires us to move and dance – activities that can strengthen our heart and improve circulation.
- helps our nervous system recover faster after a stressful event
- manages acute and chronic pain better than medication alone
- improves depression symptoms and calm us when we feel anxious
- releases endorphins, a feel-good brain hormone that can help promote positive feelings
- strengthens the throat and palate muscles, which can help improve snoring, sleep apnea, and quality of sleep
- helps develop a sense of belonging and connection when singing in a choir or group
- leads to increases in the immunoglobulin A antibody, which helps fight infections
- helps you feel the same kind of camaraderie and bonding that players on a sports team experience, when singing with others, studies show.