Songs on Script

The original 'long cool woman in a black dress', Audrey Hepburn.

The original ‘long cool woman in a black dress’, Audrey Hepburn.

In 1972, the year Big Tobacco said it was “a colossal nonsense that smoking causes emphysema”, I was listening to the Hollies ‘Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress’, and smoking Kents that were killing me softly. By 1976 I had my foot firmly on that Stairway to Heaven.

Surprising as it may sound, it has long been suspected that singing can help people with breathing difficulties.

Singing helps your lung capacity, buoys your spirits, refreshes your memory and probably strengthens your immune system. It is free, it’s legal and it’s fun. As we used to say of sex.

The World Health Organization’s shocking outlook is that COPD will be the third leading cause of death by 2030. Around the world today, an estimated 65 million of us are struggling to breathe on a daily basis.

So if there was a massed COPD Choir, it would be pretty big.
Imagine us all wearing our nose-hoses, belting out the Hollies, ‘All I need is the air that I breathe . . .’

I don’t notice my puffiness so much when I’m singing, with the oxygen cranked up to 4 litres a minute.

And my own experiment with singing has been verified medically. By experts.

A long-term study on COPD and singing from the UK’s Canterbury Christ Church University in Kent has shown that the benefits are real.

Dr Ian Morrison, a senior research fellow and one of the project’s authors, said the results were ‘remarkable’.

“Lung function improved dramatically, particularly after about five months, once people had got used to what they were doing, and changed their breathing habits.”

Dr Morrison says that people with breathing problems tend to develop a lot of anxiety about the very process of inhaling.

“The tendency is to do ‘gaspy’ breathing so they’re taking short little breaths.

“This actually fills up the lungs without clearing them, making it even more difficult to breathe.”

Due to their obstructed airways, many people with COPD already find emptying their lungs a challenge.

In contrast, the techniques used in singing encourage people to breathe in a much deeper, more controlled manner.

“On average the people in our study had 50% of expected lung function,” said Professor Stephen Clift, the study’s lead author. (That means about 1.5 litres of air in a one second puff. For healthy lungs, it would be something more like 3 litres).

Without treatment, people with COPD can expect to see the size of their puff decrease by around 40ml a year.

“In our study, we not only appeared to halt the decline but people showed a small improvement.”

Try it right now.

Punch up The Searchers, Love Potion #9

Sing along loudly. Or find a song you love and do your lungs a favour. It works. It really does.

All things are possible.

To leave a comment, click on the title ‘Songs on Script’ and scroll down.

28 thoughts on “Songs on Script

  1. Barbara, a very interesting post, I reblogged to my readers. I had not heard that take on singing having a positive impact, but as I read your blog it made perfect sense. Thank you for a good post and great read. Take care, Bill — btw loved the song my the Seekers, it must be close to a million years since I heard that verison. Take care

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks a million Bill. Have loved having some of your bloggers in for a chat. Great people.
      Another post coming soon on singing and lung function.
      I’m practising what I preach and spinning a lot of old vinyl.
      Love Potion # 9 is an oldie alright! But a goodie. Like you.


    • Thanks Paulette. Your blog is great. I’m involved in wildlife rescue in Australia. Yesterday we rescued a fruit bat caught in barbed wire and the carers named it after me. So Barbie the Bat and I are both doing well.

      Try the singing prescription and let us know. All the best.


  2. Reblogged this on Chasing Rabbit Holes and commented:
    Hi Barbara, you’re getting all of us that love Bill Hamiliton’s blog. I had noticed this, but you’ve got me thinking about joining a choir! Thank you! I also suspect blowing up balloons might work pretty well. I read this was one doctor’s solution of rehabilitative care for those who had broken their ribs. He was from Mexico and didn’t have all our wherewithal. Mind, it takes some time – LOL, but letting go of the balloon and watching the dog and cat – priceless!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I quit smoking almost 20 years ago. Haven’t been able to sing as well since I took up the filthy habit. Of course, I was also a LOT younger then. As far as breathing goes, I see benefits to singing. Who would have thunk? ~(*_*)~~
    Wonderful post.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I think a “Friends of Bill” (not friends of Bill W) choir would be amazing. I do not have COPD but I have bouts of bad asthma, and difficulty breathing. I probably should have myself checked out. I think we could start off the choir performance with Ode To Joy and then progress onward and upward ending with Won’t Get Fooled Again. I sing along with the radio all the time but after a couple of songs, I get hoarse and breathy. I think this singing thing has much merit. Give me the English for discovering something easy, fun, and elegant to make things better.

    Liked by 1 person

    • kanzensakura: ‘Serendipity’ is the word you want!
      [It is called a portmanteau word in Cryptic Crosswords, because it contains the word ‘serenity’. So serendipity and serenity are bound together. Just take out the ‘dip’!

      Your blog is beautiful. Soul food.


      • Thank you so muchfor your comment. My blog is a mishmash but I have fun and hope others do as well. Thanks also for telling me about “serendipity”.


  5. Barbara – I’m so happy I stumbled onto your post today. My husband suffers seriously from long bouts of clinical depression. He however does love to sing along with the oldies. He has a wonderful voice – and I love to dance. Watch out living room – here we come. We’ll both be dancing and breathing and singing and breathing. What could be more fun that that – and breathing deeply. Wow – who would have thought.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, Barbara – What a wonderful evening we enjoyed. I picked out some of our favorite songs we used to sing along with and danced too all those years ago. I wanted to see Tom’s reaction. The first two he listened and hummed along. By the 4th song he had my Shih Tzu in his lap and he was singing to her. I so wanted a picture but my dog hates the camera. It was priceless and I have you to thank for that. Tom laughed aloud (a sound I cherish) because lately we haven’t had much to laugh about. And, tonight we have a date for more songs and dancing in the living room. I think I even saw a grin this morning from Tom and my dog is happy, happy, happy and so am I. Tom’s shih tzu thinks we are all crazy and that’s fine with us! Have a great day.


      • One enchanted evening, from the sound of it, Sheri

        Thank you for letting us ‘see’ you, as they say in Avatar (the film).

        There was a special birthday at our place yesterday and the singing along started early with Neil Diamond’s Hot August Night, took in South Pacific and finished with died-too-young Harry Chapin. There is a beautiful song that speaks to your relationship with Tom, as sun and moon, kite and string . . . It’s called Shooting Star on the classic album ‘Verities & Balderdash’.
        Also, so you’re not the sort of woman to discombobulate your dog just for a blog! Bless you.
        Stay in touch.
        What songs did Tom love best?


      • Barbara – I believe this list could go on forever. My Tom is the first man that romanced me with song (and so many of the other gentle sides of him that make up the special man that he is). When Tom walked into my life, I looked the total package on the outside. My career was flying high, I’d just been awarded a full ride to complete my master’s degree and go on for my Ph.D. with all expenses paid courtesy of the US government where I worked putting in over 80 hours a week. For years my attitude had been, if I’m home when someone called, that’s okay but don’t you dare ask me where I’ve been when we talk the next time. I was in the process of divorcing my 2nd husband and we were already 5 years into the process and it was a full-fledged mess.
        I worked hard, made straight 4.0 in all my classes and went out dancing and drinking every night of the week after class was over. I had no plans to live a long life until Tom came along.
        The early music Tom loved and didn’t hesitate to sing along with wherever we were included: Rainbow Connection, After The Loving (I’m Still In Love With You), Can’t Help Falling In Love With You, Words of Love, Come Softly To Me, Music Box Dancer and on and on. I’ll recall more later. I happen to be listening to one of his playlist at the present time. He knows the words of hundreds of songs, it never seizes to amaze me. He can listen to Pete Fountain for hours on end. I’ll be making up a couple CDs for him in the near future to have when he’s unable to get up and about. I commented on my blog just today about your idea of using song for recovery in another blogger I responded to (I believe it was Thank you for your wisdom. I just listened to Shooting Star and we’ll be singing along with it tonight!!!


      • Sheri, Shooting Star is a beautiful anthem to Carers and Lovers and Significant Others.

        You have inspired me to open a new room in The Departure Lounge for our carers and families. A special VIP area. It shall be called ‘Flight Attendants’ in the spirit of my blog’s themes.

        I don’t know where this bucking blogmobile is taking me, but I’m enjoying the ride. I love anything that blows my hair back!

        Thank you for all your encouragement. Your blog is a sacred site for many world weary travellers and Sheri, like the astrologer Penny Thornton, you are another powerful woman lighting my way. Bless you and Tom.

        “Oh, he was the sun burning bright and brittle
        And she was the moon shining back his light a little
        He was a shooting star
        She was softer and more slowly
        He could not make things possible
        But, she could make them holy ”
        – the late Harry Chapin, 1985


      • Barbara – I don’t believe you have any idea of how powerful your own words are. Trust me, I would not have stopped and read each line and then followed if you hadn’t sounded sincere and allowed the emotion and honesty of who you are come through your writing.
        Blogging is an interesting way we have of communicating with each other and the world. I meet people I’d never have had the slightest chance of meeting if I hadn’t started blogging.
        Tom actually suggested I start the blog. I had no idea what I was doing or what I was going to say. Eventually the blog started to take on a life of it’s own and I believe yours will also.
        Thank you for the words by Harry Chapin. They are even more special when they are written out the way you have knowing you did it for me.
        Thank you for being my blogging friend Barbara. God Bless. Sheri


  6. Sometimes my brain just stops. But serendipitous was exactly what I wanted and all I could think of was synchronicity…another good word but not what I wanted. I need to get my brain going again. Since I was retired a couple of months ago (apparently, no one wants an old engineer), my brain has gone a’visiting to japan at Ryoan-ji and just wants to sit and converse with the stones there. But I’m breathing some life into it again. I think your blog will be among those who help me. Now if my brain could only sing…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Isn’t it amazing how wonderful singing can be? It can help in our lung function & it can help a stutterer speak without their stutter! Maybe because it’s so joyful? Thanks for the great info.!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hey Barbie Doll,
    Can’t believe you are having this conversation. Today our new CEO conducted a staff forum and talked about his vision. I found him really inspiring as he was focusing on the 95% that we do well and not the 5% we do bad that takes us over our budget. He was very focused on patient centered care.
    He is from Scotland and he was telling us stories about people he worked with there. One story he told us reminded me of you. It was about a group of people with COPD. They formed a choir called “Breathless not Useless”. This group of people flourished as they sang and supported each other, enjoying their time together doing something enjoyable.
    I would like to suggest that if you can’t join a choir, be proud. Sing long and hard in the shower and “Sing your own Song”.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Snap Cathy O! Thank you for dropping by. (You came here for your Skyhooks fix, didn’t you?).
    Patient-centred care, now that’s a phrase dear to us with Copd; people who were once dismissed as either ‘pink puffers’ or ‘blue bloaters’ and left to rot. It’s like ‘chronic’ became a term for ‘redundant’. Lung disease is unceasing, so, ‘what’s the point?’ Is there a sadder thing than to be told to go away and die, that you have nothing left to offer.
    Hearing about the ‘Breathless Not Useless’ Copd Choir belting out songs somewhere in Scotland is a real tonic. And they got stronger and happier through singing together. Of course they did.
    Every inspiring person, like your new CEO, seems to know to focus on what they want, not on what they don’t want. What a wonderful man to have in charge of a hospital.

    I believe if you change the way you see things, the things you see will change.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s