Our voice is the most powerful communicative tool we own. We don’t need to be talented actors to convey meaning through a breath, an excited whisper, a pause before continuing. The sounds that come out of our mouths are vital to our survival - how do we tell someone we need to eat, we’d love to meet up for a (socially distanced) drink, we love them? Our relationships depend on our voices.
Our work, too. As schools and some offices go back to some sort of “normal” - and even for those still working from home, the Zoom meetings remain(!) - our voices carry new impact once more. For those of us that sing as part of our work - not just music therapists but teachers, actors and performance artists - regaining the power and control we had with our voices when they were being used regularly before lockdown will take time.
Singing in music therapy
At NLMT, we take singing seriously. Many people we work with either don’t have confidence in their voice or want to express something important to them but haven’t found the right words. Singing, and songwriting, can be the way in. One NLMT patient told their therapist,
Singing means I can tell you about what happened to me without having to “tell” you, do you know what I mean? It feels safer somehow.
Another service user said,
You’ve thrown my mind back into why I enjoy my voice. I’ve begun to appreciate again the process of being a musician and the end result - and I’m really rather happy about that!
Why is this important now?
There’s almost nothing better for our wellbeing than singing and breathwork. Studies show that diaphragmatic breathing (i.e. breathing from the abdomen) can lower our heart rate, lower the amount of cortisol (stress hormone) in our body and improve core strength.
The Sing Up Foundation have gathered the huge breadth of research into singing to highlight four key areas where singing benefits us:
Emotional and Psychological - boosting confidence and mindfulness
Social - developing relationships and communities
Behavioural - increasing self-awareness and self-expression
Physiological - boosting the immune system, our lungs and our nervous system
Try this: Breathing exercise
Sit on a chair with a supportive back. Place your feet flat on the floor, about a hip width apart.
Place your hands on your stomach. This keeps your shoulders relaxed and in the right position.
Imagine your stomach is a balloon, filling with air. As you breathe in, feel your stomach expand and move outwards as it fills with air.
As you breathe out, feel your stomach contract and move inwards, as if the air is being let out of the balloon. Pull your navel gradually in, towards your spine.
Try this for a few minutes each day and notice any changes in your mood or stress levels.
As recommended in this NHS article, you might want to try breathing in and out for a certain number of counts (4 or 8). You can also try holding your breath for a few counts before breathing out.
Using Your Voice
As part of our offering to NLMT supporters, we are running a workshop on Wednesday 30th September - Using Your Voice. Run by Marianne (who as well as NLMT’s director and head music therapist is a professional singer) and packed full of tips and tricks for optimising your breath, your singing voice and your vocal health, this safe, accessible two hour workshop over Zoom is perfect for music therapists, teachers, actors, lawyers, doctors, parents and anyone using their voice heavily on a regular basis.
Book your place on Using Your Voice here