There's something about singing that makes you feel good, even if you start off a little bit nervous. Science tells us that pleasurable activities initiate the release of endorphins in the brain to make us feel this way. This leads us to wonder if singing is one of many activities that can release these happy chemicals.
Singing triggers the release of endorphins in your brain because it involves deep, controlled breathing and introduces more oxygen into the blood. This is a form of aerobic exercise, which is known to stimulate the hypothalamus and trigger the release of endorphins from the pituitary gland.
I will explain this is a bit more detail below, but you're probably also wondering how long you have to sing to get these effects. I will cover this further down.
How Singing Releases Endorphins: All the Facts
How Does Singing Release Endorphins?
Singing involves deep breathing and is considered an aerobic exercise. Exercise is one of many things that trigger the release of endorphins.
When you start to sing, electrical signals are sent to your brain to let it know that you have started your aerobic exercise. These signals reach the hypothalamus, which is located in the centre of the brain.
The hypothalamus then sends a signal to the pituitary gland, which sits on the underside of the brain. The pituitary gland itself released endorphins as well as signals to the rest of the body to produce more endorphins.
Other stimuli that cause your body to release endorphins are laughing, massage, falling in love, eating, sex, ultraviolet light (sunshine) and many more.
What are Endorphins?
Endorphins are a group of peptides, which are amino acids joined together in a chain. There are approximately 20 endorphins in total and the most common are known as beta-endorphins.
The purpose of endorphins is to reduce the sensation of pain, reduce stress, improve well-being and promote sensation of pleasure. This is where they get their name.
'Endo' comes from the word 'endogenous', which refers to something that is produced within the body. 'Orphin' comes from the word 'morphine, which refers to the opioid drug with similar effects. Endorphins are therefore your body's very own form of pain relief.
This is why endorphins are usually released in the presense of pain or stress; to help the body cope. It is also why activities that release endorphins (see above) are usually accompanied by a sense of wellbeing and pleasure.
Obviously activities that are too painful or stressful outweigh the body's attempt to make you feel better (such as getting injured or experiencing emotional trauma).
Singing is therefore the perfect way to release endorphins without the pain and stress!
How Long Do I Need to Sing to Feel These Effects?
If you want to sing specifically to get the benefits of endorphins, then the most important question is how long it takes.
The response is almost immediate. Once you start singing, the signals are sent to your brain and your pituitary gland will begin producing the endorphins. When you feel these effects depends on the levels in your body, which may take some time.
According to research, it only takes 10 minutes to feel the effects of endorphins released during high-intensity exercise. For low-intensity exercise (including singing), it takes approximately 30 minutes.
This doesn't mean you need to sing for 30 minutes to release the endorphins. It just means that this is the length of time required to feel the effects. Even 10 minutes of vocal exercises will release a small amount into your body.
However, singing for 30 minutes each day will increase your baseline endorphin levels (ie. make you generally happier!).
Singing Releases Other Good Chemicals Too!
Singing not only releases endorphins, but promotes other good chemicals and hormones in your body. You can find a full list of the benefits of singing in this article - some might actually surprise you!