When people find out that I'm a music therapist, the comments I hear most often are "I wish I could sing!" or "Oh, I love to sing, but I'm not good enough to do it in front of anyone".
Some of these people tell me that, as children, a parent, teacher or someone else told them that they should just mouth the words because they didn't have a good enough voice.
Singing is our birthright! Singing is a natural and pure expression of how glad we feel to be alive, and the way we show our love of music. And if you have aphasia, there are special reasons to sing. Here are my top five:
1. To relax: We sing with our whole bodies. Because singing is so connected to closely with breath, it helps to slow down our heart rate. And because singing is so much fun, it can release endorphins (those feel-good chemicals that the body creates). Another bonus? When you're relaxed, speech and language gets easier - it won't help you regain what you've lost, but whatever you've got will come out a lot easier if you're relaxed.
2. To get motivated: Choose a different kind of song and all of a sudden music becomes a rallying motivator to get up and go. Have you ever noticed how much easier it is to exercise when one of your favourite energetic songs is playing?
3. To feel connected to others and part of a group: Aphasia can be so isolating. Singing with others helps us experience in a very deep way that we are all truly connected.
4. To express your feelings: Many times a singer, songwriter or composer has expressed our feelings in a way we could never have - if there's a song that expresses what you want or need to say, try singing along. You don't have to speak to make yourself heard.
5. Because you can! In my ten years of running music therapy programs at the Aphasia Institute, I've heard beautiful singing from people with even the most severe forms of aphasia. And the look on their faces showed me how proud that made them. It feels good to do something we're good at.
So sing out! Be proud of your own unique voice. Experiment with what works for you and notice what effect different songs have on you. Then you can choose the right song for the right moment and use of the power of singing in your own life.
© Linda Dessau, 2006
These images were created at the Aphasia Institute © 2006 The Aphasia Institute.