We have all come to choir rehearsal feeling drained, exhausted and even stressed from our daily activities. We have also frequently found that after rehearsal we are once again feeling relaxed, happy and energised. Well, now it is more than just an observation-its proven science. And it is due to a chemical called endocannabinoids….. Hubba what??
Me too. No idea.
Endocannabinoids are chemicals that when released (due to an environmental trigger), is proven to improve mood, reduce stress, reduce anxiety, increase memory and cognition (the conductor was thrilled to learn that), improve sleep and reduce appetite. There are endocannabinoid receptors all over the body; in the brain, organs, connective tissues, glands, and immune cells. They have been described by researches as the literal bridge between body and mind (Alger, Bradely, Getting High on the Endocannabinoid System).
Wow. How is it that I took a University Anatomy and Physiology course and never came across this awesome class of chemicals?!
So what triggers a release of endocannabinoids? You guessed it- Singing. And not only that, it raises it 47%! These are the highest levels found out of the many activities found to increase endocannabinoids including running, cycling, and dancing (but to be fair, dancing was a close second). Note: reading dishwasher manuals was found to have no effect on increasing endocannabinoid levels..ahem… That’s not a surprise. (https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/4CBpdQyyRBPRDcmmPmfHVFD/can-singing-give-you-a-natural-high)
I first heard about endocannabinoids from long time Cantala choir and board member, Mary Kainer. Mary mentioned it to me in passing that she had heard Dr. Ruth Ross** at a TEDx talk recently about endocannabinoids and the positive link to singing. I was excited to learn about endocannabinoids. I had never heard of them before. And now it all made so much more sense to me why many people tell me choir is the most important part of their lives. People LOVE it and a week without choir rehearsal puts their life out of sync. My time conducting and guiding Cantala has long proven to me that it has a real role to supporting good mental health in its members. What a privilege it is to make music with those that find it a refuge as well as a joy.
If endocannabinoids aren’t the best reason to join Cantala, what could it be?
**Dr. Ruth Ross is a professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Toronto. She presented her TEDx talk in Mississauga this past January 2019. The TEDx talk has now been posted online. Check it out!