As the excitement of Advent swept the nation this weekend, I delved into the dusty corner of my brain marked 'Christmas bingo', quickly ticking off Mariah Carey, black Friday shopping hell, John Lewis advert, and obscene stacks of mince pies at the end of every aisle and checkout. Aside from this festive mental japery, Advent also marked the start of my musical marathon, since I am attending or performing in eleven musical events over 13 days. Yes really. Many of my patients will wearily attest to my ability to prattle on about local concerts here, choirs there, but the reason it's so important to spread the word is because it's great for health.
"But how? Tell us!" I hear you cry. Gather ye merrily round. Earlier this year York held the first ever 'Creative Arts in Healthcare' event where training GPs mingled with local dancers, artists, and singers as well as experts in the research behind why the arts are good for your health. Here, Jennifer Aniston would feign equivocal childlike innocence saying "Here comes the science bit - concentrate!": singing exercises the brain and the lungs as well as improving posture and muscle tension, and can even be effective pain relief. Do I need to tell you that singing is used across cultures, religions, in sporting events, at celebrations and funerals? Humans have always been musical. Withered old fossilised musical instruments have been found from 40,000 (even before my time). And if we can help bring local people together through events like singing, communities will be stronger, people will form friendships that could provide support in times of need, reducing loneliness and isolation. 2 things we certainly don't want at Christmas.
Forging strong links with a community like this can have as big an impact on your health as giving up smoking. Wow. And even if you're not bothered about the singing bit, choirs generally have excellent bakers among them (I can vouch for this in my choir. Yum). And there's often a recycling opportunity here; after concert no. 1 yesterday I pondered the discarded scattering of used foil tart cases, now tragically bereft of their mince pies, their only purpose in life over. Or was it? Lucky for them, they'll be added to my box of foil milk bottle tops and yogurt pot lids ready to burst into new life thanks to Snappy. You can find their collection bins at both Sainsbury's, and the Designer Outlet. Good luck finding a parking space this side of 2020.
So sing heartily in the shower, jingle your bells in the office, and hum a tune on your way to work this Christmas. Close your eyes and you're standing alongside Dave Arch and his crew on Strictly. Bask in the toasty warm glow of adrenaline and endorphins (happy hormones) as you serenade the rest of your office (standing on the table = mandatory) or inflict upon your household a karaoke version of the Pogues, or have a bash at the lofty descant that makes O Come All Ye Faithful slightly more bearable...