Autumn leaves have fallen and soon families will be seated around a warm table for Thanksgiving dinner. It won’t be long before the holiday season is back in full swing. Christmas trees will be illuminated, stockings will be hung and families will be gathering in celebration. However, having a cancer diagnosis, or having a loved one with cancer, may bring an extra dose of stress and anxiety during the special time of year. It may be difficult to squeeze in all of the beloved traditions in between appointments, treatment and simply being exhausted. But before losing hope of having a holly jolly holiday, there is an exciting and joyous way to bring the traditional holiday spirit to life while also boosting the psyche of the entire family: Singing.
Mental wellbeing is as important as physical wellbeing in day-to-day life, but especially so when battling cancer. Research has long examined psycho-social interventions’ biological results. In fact, over the last 50 years, well over 300 studies of this type have been conducted for cancer patients, survivors and caregivers. These studies have applied interventions such as yoga, arts and aerobics to those affected by cancer.
The research continues to conclude that psycho-social interventions have successfully reduced levels of stress and anxiety in cancer patients. Singing has been the major mood-boosting intervention that has stolen the spotlight in recent research.
In the past, music has been proven to increase moods and reduce stress. However, the act of singing has recently been discovered to take that mood boost one step further. In a group of cancer patients and caregivers, one study found that singing was associated with an increase in immune cell activity and too a decrease in cortisol, a hormone released in response to stress. Another study suggested that singing may have a beneficial influence on pain, fatigue and anxiety. Singing has also been shown to result in an increase of social support, improved overall quality of life and even raised perceptions of care.
Derived positive mental states have also influenced biological benefits. Many patients who reported the positive psychological outcomes from singing have also shown a decrease in inflammation and improved cellular function, amongst other long-term health outcomes. Furthermore, singing has even been found to have a small yet significant influence on heart and respiratory rates, as well as blood pressure.
One of the recent studies compared benefits from the act of singing in a group of cancer patients and a group of caregivers. Surprisingly, it was found that psychological benefits were evenly shared by all involved. Caregivers and patients alike were found to have an increased mood, decreased stress and fewer reports of anxiety.
In short, singing is a simple, joyous act that can have a significant impact on the mental wellbeing of all who are involved.
Music plays a significant role in most celebrations and holidays. It won’t be long before radio stations and stores are filled with the same classic carols that have played for decades before. This year, combine old traditions with new traditions. Encourage your friends and family to learn to play a favorite carol on an instrument and sing along as they learn. Learning an instrument together can be an exciting activity that will be enjoyed for years to come. If finding an instrument is too difficult of a task, simply sing along with the radio instead. Bellow Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” during commercial breaks of your favorite television show or whistle along to “Jingle Bells” while driving to a doctor’s appointment.
Incorporating a little bit of singing with a dash of cheer will offer joy, health, laughter, and life to your holiday celebration.
- Bieligmeyer, S., Helmert, E., Hautzinger, M., & Vagedes, J. (2018). Feeling the sound – short-term effect of a vibroacoustic music intervention on well-being and subjectively assessed warmth distribution in cancer patients—A randomized controlled trial. Complementary Therapies in Medicine,40, 171-178. doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2018.03.002
- Bradt, J., Dileo, C., Magill, L., & Teague, A. (2017). What are the effects of music interventions for improving psychological and physical outcomes among patients with cancer? Cochrane Clinical Answers. doi:10.1002/cca.1582
- Daykin, N., Mansfield, L., Meads, C., Julier, G., Tomlinson, A., Payne, A., . . . Victor, C. (2017). What works for wellbeing? A systematic review of wellbeing outcomes for music and singing in adults. Perspectives in Public Health,138(1), 39-46. doi:10.1177/1757913917740391
- Fancourt, D., Williamon, A., Carvalho, L. A., Steptoe, A., Dow, R., & Lewis, I. (2016). Singing modulates mood, stress, cortisol, cytokine and neuropeptide activity in cancer patients and carers. Ecancermedicalscience,10. doi:10.3332/ecancer.2016.631
- Wang, X., Zhang, Y., Fan, Y., Tan, X., & Lei, X. (2018). Effects of Music Intervention on the Physical and Mental Status of Patients with Breast Cancer: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Breast Care,13(3), 183-191. doi:10.1159/000487073