Shower Power: Does Singing In The Shower Make You Happier?

12 min read

Most of us shower once a day, first thing in the morning or last thing at night. It’s a way to wake up for the day ahead, or to wind down and relax before bed. Some of us love to belt out a tune in the shower as well, much to the annoyance of neighbours and others in the house. 

But, are shower singing superstars on to something? Are they happier because of singing through suds? Should we all be letting ourselves go in the shower and doing our best impressions of Beyoncé?

Does singing in the shower make you happier? We decided to find out!

The Test

We trialled singing in the shower with 10 volunteers – of different ages and genders – to find out if they feel happier when singing vs when showering in silence. They spent one week (five days) of showering without singing followed by one week (five days) of showering with singing. After each shower over the 10 days, we asked all participants to fill in the Oxford Happiness Questionnaire – eight questions to determine the happiness of an individual. We also added three other questions from the extended Oxford Happiness Inventory. Along with our test results, we’ve also sought expert insight to find whether this one change to our routines could make us happier in a time where the world could do with more smiles.

What we asked:

  1. I don’t feel particularly pleased with the way I am
  2. I feel that life is very rewarding
  3. Life is good
  4. I am well satisfied about everything in my life
  5. I don’t think I look attractive
  6. I am very happy
  7. I find beauty in some things
  8. I can fit in (find time for) everything I want to
  9. I feel fully mentally alert
  10. I feel I have a great deal of energy
  11. I do not have particularly happy memories of the past

Participants were asked to rank themselves on each statement on a six-point Likert scale, which looked like the following:

Strongly DisagreeModerately DisagreeSlightly DisagreeSlightly AgreeModerately AgreeStrongly Agree

Does the expert think our volunteers will feel happier?

We spoke to Michael Padraig Acton, consultant and psychological therapist, about whether singing could make us happier, he said: 

“From a psychological and scientific perspective, singing improves our mood because it really forces us to be mindful with our breathing. When we are belting out a tune, we simply have to breathe more deeply. This increases oxygen levels and sends a message to the brain that we are ready to calm down.

“Our heart rate slows, our blood pressure decreases as our blood vessels relax and we simply feel more at peace. Many people exacerbate feelings of anxiety by habitually breathing in a shallow way. Singing in any context retrains our bodies into breathing more effectively for our physical and mental well-being.”

Will singing in the shower make us happier?

Acton continued: “The interesting thing about singing in the shower is that we are combining the health benefits of deep breathing with hydrotherapy – ‘water therapy’. Now, it depends on the temperature of the water as to what specific health benefits you will enjoy. Do you turn up the heat or prefer a refreshing cold dowsing? 

“A study carried out in 2000 found that immersion in cool water (around 14 degrees celsius) reduces the levels of cortisol, often referred to as the ‘stress hormone’. Again, this can reverse those unpleasant feelings we get when stressed (pounding heart, fast breathing, high blood pressure, etc.). At the same time, cold water relieves pain by increasing levels of dopamine, a natural painkiller and reducing inflammation. 

“How about a hot shower? Well, hot water can also ease pain, albeit in a different way. Instead of numbing pain and reducing swelling, hot water increases blood flow. This has been shown to soothe aching joints and stiff muscles. So, it is mainly a matter of experimentation and personal preference as to whether we will be happier standing under a hot or cold shower. Either way, getting into the habit of singing while you’re scrubbing is definitely a great idea.”

The Results

Now we’ve heard from the expert, it’s time to see what our study found.

Week 1 – Not singing in the shower – happiness score of 2.96 out of 6

In the first week of the study, participants didn’t sing in the shower each day, and recorded their responses to the questionnaire after the shower. The answers were given scores from 1 to 6 as per instructions from the Oxford Happiness Questionnaire. 

We aggregated the scores for each set of answers from each participant and worked out an average score per question and an overall score for the week (to negate particularly good or bad days). 

On average for the week of showering without singing, participants recorded an overall score of 2.96 out of six. Scientist Steven Wright from Georgetown University’s Brain and Language Lab interprets the score as follows: 

  • Between two and three – Somewhat unhappy
  • Between three and four – Neutral, not really happy or unhappy

Our participants recorded an average score of 2.96, close to the border of both categories. Leaning more towards a neutral score – neither happy or unhappy, however recording a slightly more unhappy response on average. Below are the questions asked and the most common responses from week one. 

  1. I don’t feel particularly pleased with the way I am – Slightly Agree
  2. I feel that life is very rewarding – Slightly Disagree
  3. Life is good – Slightly Disagree 
  4. I am well satisfied about everything in my life – Slightly Disagree
  5. I don’t think I look attractive – Slightly Agree
  6. I am very happy – Slightly Agree
  7. I find beauty in some things – Slightly Agree
  8. I can fit in (find time for) everything I want to – Slightly Disagree
  9. I feel fully mentally alert – Moderately Disagree
  10. I feel I have a great deal of energy – Moderately Disagree
  11. I do not have particularly happy memories of the past  – Slightly Disagree

Week 2 – Singing In The Shower – happiness score of 4.5 out of 6

For week two, participants were asked to sing while having a shower – any song of their choice – and all other conditions and requirements of the test remained the same.

Once scores for the week were analysed, the overall happiness score recorded in week two was 4.5 out of six, defined as: 

Between four and five – Rather happy; pretty happy.

Participants recorded an average score in the middle of 4 and 5, with the most common answers given in week two being:

  1. I don’t feel particularly pleased with the way I am – Moderately Disagree
  2. I feel that life is very rewarding – Moderately Agree
  3. Life is good – Moderately Agree 
  4. I am well satisfied about everything in my life – Slightly Agree
  5. I don’t think I look attractive – Slightly Disagree
  6. I am very happy – Moderately Agree
  7. I find beauty in some things – Moderately Agree
  8. I can fit in (find time for) everything I want to – Slightly Agree
  9. I feel fully mentally alert – Strongly Agree
  10. I feel I have a great deal of energy – Slightly Agree
  11. I do not have particularly happy memories of the past  – Moderately Disagree

How Do The Results Compare?

Across the board, participants recorded marginally more positive answers to the questions asked in week two, and scores recorded were on average 1.77 points higher on the scale.

The question which received the largest change in terms of sentiment was ‘I feel fully mentally alert’. In week one, participants recorded an answer of ‘moderately disagree’ which increased three ranks on the scale to ‘strongly agree’ in week two following a sing song in the shower.

An increase of two points on the scale was recorded in the questions where participants were asked the statement ‘I don’t feel pleased with the way I am’. Here, the answer changed from ‘slightly agree’ to ‘moderately disagree’. Elsewhere participants said they found life more rewarding (slightly disagree to moderately agree), felt happier (slightly disagree to moderately agree) and had more energy (moderately disagree to slightly agree) with all related questions improving by two ranks on the scale.

Overall participants recorded a happiness score that was on average higher across week two when singing in the shower, with increases specifically in how they felt within themselves both physically and mentally.

Singing in the shower – why do we sound better?

Now you know the benefits of singing in the shower, here’s how to make sure you do it right.

We spoke to vocal coaches, Natalie Farrell, who has 15 years of experience vocal coaching – some of her pupils have found themselves in film and even the West End – and Mark De Lisser, a renowned arranger, choral director and vocal coach. Mark is best known for his arrangement of Stand by Me for the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in 2018.

Natalie said: 

“Why do we sound better taking a wash? Interestingly when I think about this my mind immediately goes to the idea of self confidence. No one is looking/listening so I will really let rip and pretend to be a great singer. The premise of this freedom to sing in the rain (Gene Kelly style!) means that the inhibitions are quite literally being washed away allowing the shower songstress to join in with the sound and just have a go. Enjoy even. 

“On another level, thinking of the acoustics within the bathroom. Generally a bathroom is a smallish room. And the shower itself acts like a sound booth very much like the one you would find in a recording studio. Therefore the sound once it has left the singers mouth rebounds back to them rather quickly there isn’t much space for the sound to reverberate out further than the warm (cold for Wimhoff lovers) sanctuary. 

“The water itself I feel has no contributing factor in terms of a conductor for the sound waves and amplification but it does play the role of conductor on an energetic level. The water makes the person feel really clean and happy and empowered – a reset button almost, washing away their troubles – ‘taking a power shower’ and ‘cleaning up’ are some expressions which come to mind, offering the shower singer time to just sing and be content. 

“When we feel content we find ourselves humming and feeling happy. Ever found yourself humming another time in the day out of the shower? I bet you sing more than you realise other times throughout the day too, listen out.”

Mark agreed:

“In a bathroom there are lots of hard surfaces; tiles, walls and glass, which create a natural reverb and echo making the voice sound bigger, fuller and weightier. Because your voice has reverb in this environment it simply does sound better. 

“Most recording artists add reverb to their vocals or record in a reverberant space for this reason!”

How can you enhance your shower singing skills?

Here’s what the experts recommend:

  1. To sound better, take the band leader attitude and start to enjoy the act of singing freely in this environment so you can experience the feelings of enjoying free vocalisation. 
  2. Sing into the cupped space of your closed hands to create a water resistant microphone and amplify the voice more
  3. There is a technique called belting which is typical in musical theatre and pop singing. It occurs when you tilt your head back and chin forward to lift the larynx, so washing your hair could also enhance your chances to amplify the sound, as long as you keep your mouth away from the water! 
  4. Keep the windows closed – the steam acts as a natural steamer for the throat and nose. We want the nasal tract and pharynx (throat) to be as clear as possible for great sounds. 
  5. Try turning down the shower so it gets a bit colder – this will naturally make the throat close and then you will be able to reach higher notes as the larynx (voice box) will move up higher in the throat – so perfect tip to try out for a Michael Jackson audition!
  6. The best way to deliver a song is to find one that you can really relate to, and sing it from the heart. And stand tall: when your body is in alignment, breathing becomes easier, which improves your ability to sing. You’re not breathing at optimum capacity for singing if you’re hunched over.

Before you start hitting the high notes, make sure your shower is clean

Us Brits are recommended to clean our shower head once every three months as a minimum but 1 in 3 of us doesn’t – with a further 1 in 7 admitting to never cleaning them at all.

Surely the shower is clean? Why is it so important?

The shower head is the perfect place for bacteria that can build up in any warm and wet areas, with some of it having the potential to include bugs that can make us ill. So while we may end up happier singing in the shower, we could be making ourselves ill if not following a cleaning routine in the bathroom as well.

Legionella bacteria can develop on the shower head, which could lead to Legionnaires’ disease, a serious lung infection.

The International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health conducted a study where researchers investigated homes in some of the hardest water areas of the South East of England. It found 6% of household showers tested had signs of bacteria links to legionnaires’ disease.

You can easily clean your shower head with household ingredients like vinegar or coca cola. Investments in water treatments like water softeners can work to reduce the build up of limescale in your system before it impacts your shower. 

How do I clean a shower head?

  1. Soak your shower head in warm water and white vinegar; this will dislodge the worst of the limescale build up by breaking down the alkaline properties. If you can’t remove the head, soak a cloth in the solution and hold on to the shower.
  2. Using a soft toothbrush, you can now scrub away the build up on the head.
  3. Repeat until clean.
  4. You can repeat the same cleaning technique with the same ingredients around the shower. Shower screens, taps, bath etc are impacted by hard water.

Find out more about the benefits of water softeners here.

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Methodology

All 10 participants in the study spent five consecutive days showering without singing and following the weekend, five consecutive days singing in the shower. Each participant was asked to fill in an anonymous questionnaire directly after showering. We calculated the score as per instructions from the Oxford Happiness study (OHI). On occasions not all participants completed the questionnaire, in this instance we continued to take the average scores to negate any impact. 

In order to analyse the change week-on-week, we took an average overall happiness score for both weeks and also took the average for each question over the week – placing this score against the interpretation instructions by the OHI. For analysis of the questions and the score, we rounded the average number to the nearest round number in order to place the number on the Likert scale for analysis against the answer statements.