People Who Sing In The Car Are Happier, Healthier And Live Longer

by John Haltiwanger
Paramount PIctures

One of the greatest movie scenes of all time occurs in "Wayne's World" when Wayne, Garth and the crew are driving down the road and offer a stirring rendition of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody."

Part of what makes this scene so good, beyond the hilarity of Mike Myers and Dana Carvey, is so many of us have done the exact same thing.

Whether alone or with friends, there is great joy to be found in singing your heart out -- and perhaps even playing a little air guitar -- while inhabiting a motor vehicle. But let's be honest, it's always better when you have at least one friend to hit the high notes with.

Some of life's greatest memories involve unashamedly singing your favorite song at the top of your lungs with your best friends while sitting in traffic. Who cares if people can see and hear you? Your jam just came on! Not singing is not an option.

Americans reportedly spend the equivalent of about a full week of work stuck in traffic every single year, which absolutely sucks. But pumping up the jams and singing as loud as humanly possible can definitely improve the situation.

Indeed, music makes everything better. It relieves pain, reduces stress, increases productivity, fosters euphoria and inspires even the least coordinated people to stand up and bust a move. Music is a beautiful thing and one of life's greatest gifts.

To borrow from Jimi Hendrix:

Music doesn't lie. If there is something to be changed in this world, then it can only happen through music.

One of the most effective ways of capturing the truth of music is through singing. It allows you to feel a song with your entire body and soul, turning your voice into an instrument.

Research has shown singing can improve your health, increase happiness and even extend your life.

So no matter who or where you are, you can reap many benefits from belting out some tunes. Sing in the car, sing in the shower, sing in a choir, sing karaoke, sing while you're working, sing while you're walking -- just sing.

Singing is great for your brain, and can literally make you feel high. It releases endorphins, hormones that produce pleasure, simultaneous to oxytocin, hormones that diminish stress and anxiety.

Oxytocin also decreases feelings of depression and loneliness, making us feel more connected with the world, which is precisely why singing with other people feels even better.

This explains why no road trip with friends is truly complete without access to some form of music.

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden found people who sing together become so connected they exhibit synchronized heartbeats.

Anyone who's ever sung in a choral group can attest to this. When the magical, melodious sound comes together, there's an explicable unity experienced between the individuals producing it. It's goosebump-inducing.

Singing also requires deep concentration on breathing, works major muscle groups in the upper body and is great for both lung and cardiovascular health.

Björn Vickhoff, who spearheaded the study, contends:

Song is a form of regular, controlled breathing, since breathing out occurs on the song phrases and inhaling takes place between these. It gives you pretty much the same effect as yoga breathing. It helps you relax, and there are indications that it does provide a heart benefit.

Thus, singing is arguably better for you than doing yoga.

Research has also shown singing produces lower levels of cortisol, reducing stress while improving our immune systems. In other words, singing could potentially help keep you from getting sick.

Correspondingly, a joint study from Harvard and Yale Universities in 2008 found singing increases life expectancy. Given the numerous mental and physical health benefits of crooning, this comes as no surprise.

If you want to feel less stressed, if you want to be happier, if you want to live longer: Start singing.

Singing will immediately improve your mood while making you happier and healthier in the long run. It provides for a natural high that is best experienced while surrounded by others.

So, if life's got you down, grab some friends, hop in the car, go on a road trip and sing until you can't sing any longer.

Citations: Singing Changes Your Brain (Time ), Effects of choir singing or listening on secretory immunoglobulin A cortisol and emotional state (PubMed ), All together now singing is good for your body and soul (The Telegraph ), The American Commuter Spends 38 Hours A Year Stuck In Traffic (The Atlantic ), 10 Reasons to Make Singing Your Happiness Drug (Huffington Post ), Singing as part of a choir has the same calming health benefits as yoga study finds (NP), Music structure determines heart rate variability of singers (Frontiers in Psychology ), Keeping body and soul in tune (The Guardian ), Ode to Joy (Slate)