Science Has Good News for People Who Sing in the Shower

A shower opera scene from the movie 'To Rome With Love.'

Let's face it — singing in the shower has gotten a bad rep. Long known as something only irritating younger siblings, infuriating roommates and people who mistakenly think they're alone do, shower singers have for too long hidden their passion from the world.

The time has come to change that.

It turns out that singing at all, and especially first thing in the morning, has a multitude of positive mental and physical health benefits. It is arguably a better way, emotionally and physically, than coffee to start your day.

First, singing is perfect for early in the day because it was important early in our lives. It's the earliest form of entertainment we experience. Mothers and fathers instinctively raise their infants with lullabies, and it actually helps prepare young brains to process language. So when you sing to yourself, you're calling back to a fundamental period in your life.

At the same time, you do concrete good for your body in that moment. Researchers have found that singing (particularly in a choir) leads to a higher immune competence, meaning singers are less likely to catch the latest bug going around — a good corrective for the damage that a poor night's sleep might have done.

Even more substantially, you do longterm good for your heart. People who sing (or even just surround themselves with singing) have lower cortisol levels than those who don't. Cortisol is linked to stress levels, which, in turn, are linked to heart health. Those who sing are far less stressed, and that means their hearts do better in the long run. 

Even beyond cortisol, singing has a massively positive effect on the heart and mind simultaneously — one similar to another early morning ritual: yoga. Another study led by Swedish musicologist Björn Vickhoff found that vocal cooing has a dramatic effect on heart rate variability, which leads to a reduced risk of heart disease. Vickhoff revealed to the Telegraph that it "gives you pretty much the same effect as yoga breathing."

Like yoga, singing actually triggers the release of both endorphins and oxytocin in the brain. This release has a combined effect of simultaneously heightening your sense of pleasure while relieving anxiety and stress, much like the well-known yet elusive runners' high. And as in meditation, group singers' heart rates synch up when they sing together. Now watch this performance of "Seasons of Love" from Glee and think about the fact that their hearts are probably beating in time:

Whether you've woken up on the wrong side of the bed or just had a bad day, shower singing gets to the core of the problem and helps turn those negative feelings around. Research proves that singing combats sadness, anxiety and depression. And in the long term, it's been tied to increased life expectancy and improved coping with chronic pain. So get the water temperature right, suds up and let it go.