As social media becomes of the norm for more and more nations, it is tough to consider the world anything less than connected. At the push of a button, we can “connect” with millions of individuals from all across the globe. We can “maintain” friendships without ever uttering a single word, build relationships in isolation by stroking our keyboard. But, what are we sacrificing at the hand of convenience? Perhaps much more than we ever imagined.
Societies that prioritize “gatherings” tend to, on average, be happier than even those groups that have far more resources. Festivals especially reinforce the importance of connectedness in the truest sense of the word. These festivities, unique to each culture, foster unity – creating new ties and strengthening existing relationships.
Festivals cultivate a sense of belonging, and today, that is exactly what many of us are lacking.
For religious festivals, in particular, song is a key element serving to nurture togetherness. Singing in a group can be a transcendent experience – not only spiritually, but physiologically. And, what researchers have found is that the elation triggered by a chorus is very real.
Researchers in Sweden studied the heart rates of high school choir members as they sang as one. Published in Frontiers in Neuroscience, their findings prove that choir music, especially when singing in unison, has a calming effect on the heart.
The act of singing serves as a method of controlled breathing, which allows the heart to decelerate. The study found that when the groups sung in unison, their heart beats synchronized, reflecting the rhythm of the music. Not only does music allows us to sync our actions (singing and dancing), it also syncs our internal rhythms.
The implication of these findings is that the communal musical experience is not only a quixotic ideal. It is genuine – and very much transcendent. Singing at these communal gatherings cultivates a true experience of belonging – a unity of both our external beings and our internal counterparts.
Not only does music allows us to sync our actions (singing and dancing), it also syncs our internal rhythms.
While your Facebook friends may number in the thousands, the isolation of the internet simply can’t compete with the calming effects of a beautiful hymn sung together at a community festival or a choir.