Well, it’s been a little while, so I thought I would put some extra effort into this edition. At practice a few weeks ago, we gave a performance-standard rendition of Howard Goodall’s ‘The Lord Is My Shepherd’ for one of our members and his wife who had gone to a funeral of a close relative. Knowing we were doing this was a help to them. Another of us returned to choir very recently after being poorly and said how much better she felt because she came to choir. I often say that being in Eccles Community choir supports well-being.
But what is well-being?
A simple definition is that well-being is a healthy and balanced lifestyle. A happy soul. It seems that well-being can be categorised into Personal (subjective and objective), community and national well-being and that there are several ideas about what contributes to well-being ; frequently these include a combination of satisfactory levels of physical and mental health, wealth, work, leisure, spiritual and emotional health and happiness.
How is it measured?
The NHS offers a tool which helps you to measure your own ( subjective) well-being at http://www.nhs.uk/Tools/Pages/Wellbeing-self-assessment.aspx . The Office of National Statistics (ONS) Measuring National Well-being Programme aims to produce accepted and trusted measures of the well-being of the nation -how the UK as a whole is doing. However, the ONS recognises that some things are very difficult to measure (such as spiritual awareness and fulfilment), which means that their work has its limitations; although you can see from their diagrammatical representation below, they do measure a lot of things! You can look at it in detail at http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/wellbeing/measuring-national-well-being/domains-and-measures—september-2013/art-measuring-national-well-being—domains-and-measures—september-2013.html#tab-Where-to-find-domains-and-measures-data
I have done a bit of reading, and I have found scientific evidence that a feeling of belonging to a local community can influence people’s sense of identity and may also contribute to an individual’s sense of well-being. Participation in activities such as our community choir has been shown to facilitate social interaction, reduce depression and anxiety, produce positive moods and enhance self-esteem and self-concept. These activities also increase general psychological wellbeing and life satisfaction, and improve cognitive functioning, creative ability and academic performance. Some research studies have shown that organisations like our choir help to strengthen social ties in the community and therefore contribute towards individual and organisational self-esteem, which ultimately nurtures well-being. I think we would all agree with that!
What we do in choir is classified within the ONS statistics of ‘spending time with family and friends’. This is the second most popular way for UK individuals to use their free time and research has shown it is positively associated with subjective well-being. In fact, the 2012 ONS article ‘Our Relationships’ states that the amount and quality of social connections with people around us are an essential part of our well-being.
In July 2011 around 1 in 20 adults aged 16 and over in Great Britain reported being completely lonely in their daily lives. The ONS confirms (rather unsurprisingly) that Personal relationships are very important to an individual’s well-being because they provide emotional and material support and help people’s ability to deal with difficult times in their lives.This shows how important access to community based activities are for everyone. The good news is that in 2010/11, 45.7 per cent of adults aged 16 and over in England were involved with a group, clubor organisation which had people who got together to do an activity or talk about things – that includes us!
When you look at the range of activities people engage in within their groups or clubs, ONS ‘What We do’( 2012)found that around 25% of adults engage in activities like ours
The Department of Health recognises interdependence between health and well-being, i.e. interventions to promote well-being can support health and vice-versa. And I for one can vouch for the positive effect that singing had on my well-being during a life-threatening illness. It can be seen from our testimonials along with other anecdotes I have received from members that being part of Eccles Community Choir helps people to cope with a wide range of health issues, ranging from asthma, to mental health and even early dementia. I recently found out about Dementia Friends http://www.dementiafriends.org.uk/, who tell us that with a helping hand, people living with dementia can still enjoy their hobbies, have good relationships with partners and friends and live independently for longer. There is also a new dementia institute for Salford at the University http://www.salford.ac.uk/salford-institute-for-dementia and our friends at Eccles Town Hall have just held an event all about supporting dementia, which just goes to show how valuable community organisations are.
As well as helping each of us, it is great that our choir can help others. At the break each week, we have a little collection pot for ‘shrapnel’ small change, which in turn funds school dinners for children in a village in Kenya (via Rowley projects, www.rowleyprojects.com ), which means that they can stay at school all day – a very long walk home at lunchtime ( where they may not be any lunch waiting anyway) makes it impossible for the children to return for afternoon lessons. Members of the choir also find other practical donations for this charity at each visit that Angela & co make to Kenya. We also sometimes donate some of the proceeds from concerts to charities – what a positive by-product of a community choir!
Another positive product is of course our concerts! Our Spring concert is at Eccles Town Hall on 28th March, starting at 7.30pm (£3 adults, accompanied children can come along for free, you can pay on the door). Refreshments and a raffle will also be on the menu -don’t forget to put it in your diary. The ONS identified that listening to music is the 3rd favourite well-being activity for men and the fourth for women ( their 3rd favourite is shopping!) … so come to the concert, it is good for you!
The ONS have also found that Holidays are linked to well-being. Holidays include short episodes away from the pressures of life … for me choir practice is a little holiday each week, even if it is only in sunny Salford.