Cortisol is a hormone that, when optimized, helps regulate the immune system, blood pressure, and insulin levels. However, when levels are too high, it can have the opposite effect (high blood pressure, blood sugar imbalances, immune system suppression). In children, prolonged elevated cortisol levels can cause brain cells to die and can reduce the number of neurological connections created in brain. Who wants that?
Recent studies have shown that singing can shift this cortisol stress response.
- A study conducted by researchers at the University of Toronto (Shenfield, Trehub & Nakata), showed that when a mother sings to her baby for 10 minutes, the level of cortisol in child’s body is optimized–whether elevated or depressed, the level comes back to equilibrium. An added benefit? The cortisol optimization lasts for 19 to 22 minutes after the singing stops.
- In a study of adult singers, Dianna Kenny (a professor of psychology) and Sinan Ali (a biological scientist) measured the cortisol levels in choir singers before and after a one-hour rehearsal. They found an approximate 40% reduction in cortisol levels in the singers.
So, perhaps we should be singing all the time–for ourselves and for our children. OK…maybe not ALL the time. I won’t be singing my pizza delivery order to the guy on the phone, for example. But if I did, would it de-stress him, too? I’ll spend some stress-free time thinking on that for a little while as I sing a song to myself.