Can singing regularly improve your breathing and heart health, mood and stress levels, as recent research suggests?
That was the basis of a little two-person experiment called The One Month Tune-Up, in which Kaila from In My Skinny Genes and myself would sing every day during October to see how this habit would affect our health and happiness.
So, how did it go? Well, not exactly as we’d expected.
It’s been sixteen days since Kaila from In My Skinny Genes and I have started The One Month Tune- Up, to see for ourselves whether singing every day during October can boost our health and happiness, as scientific research suggests. So how’s my singing challenge going so far?
To track whether singing regularly can really have a positive impact on our heart rate and stress levels, I’ve been using the free GPS for the Soul app to measure heart rate variability. Heart rate variability refers to the beat-to-beat changes in your heart rate, a good indicator of bodily stress. When you’re healthy, the time gap between your heart beats varies periodically when you’re resting. That’s why a high heart rate variability is considered as a sign of good health, while a decreased heart rate variability is linked to stress, fatigue, and increasing wear and tear.
Now, using an app is not a completely accurate way to measure heart rate variability, I know. ‘Luckily’ I’ve had plenty of medical tests in my life to notice enough similarities between the numbers on my iPad and more reliable measurements in the past.
The good news: My heart rate variability has been ‘in sync’ for the last sixteen days of the One Month Tune-Up. My average heart rate in resting conditions lies between 70 and 80, which is a little higher than the ‘normal’ pulse of 60 to 70 beats per minute reported by the Dutch Heart Foundation. The ‘bad’ news: So far, singing at least one song a day has had no significant effects on my heart rate and (low) stress levels.
Uhm, so does that mean that our little experiment doesn’t have any effects on our health and happiness? Not quite.
You’ve read hundreds of articles on superfoods, supplements and the benefits of the perfect workout.
Hungry for more information and motivation, you search the Internet for that one magic cure that will fix your health problems.
But the sad truth is: you’ll never find it.
Your health is the end result of complex, dynamic interactions between your body, mind and surroundings. Practicing yoga or drinking green smoothies can definitely boost your wellbeing, but there isn’t one single thing that will restore that precious balance on its own. Unlike some health guru’s may tell you, healing yourself or ‘leveling up‘ your health requires more than munching on kale chips or trying that special meditation technique. It’s about developing your own routine of timeless health habits, having loving relationships, pursuing meaningful goals and having fun.
Consistently changing your lifestyle, one small habit at a time, will slowly lead to a fitter body, healthier weight and happier mind. It won’t happen overnight. True, lasting change takes time.
But in order to create those lasting changes, you need to step away from the computer and make things happen.
There had been plenty of signs that I was slowly heading towards the ‘danger zone’: sleepless nights, inflamed joints and flare-ups of old symptoms. I was running on empty, but kept going. Sometimes you have to push beyond your limits in order to make significant progress on what matters in your life.
So it didn’t come as a surprise that after months of working intensely on a psychological study, launching this website and celebrating milestones in my friend’s lives, I was feeling completely worn out.
Optimistically, I’d figured that taking two weeks off to relax and catch up on sleep would help get my health back on track. Yeah… I should have known better. Instead, my body was thinking: “Oh good, I’m finally done? Time for some thorough restoration!”, leaving me feeling worse than before.
Dealing with health setbacks can be tough, even when you’ve been living with chronic illness for a long time. Sometimes, like in my case, it’s obvious what’s causing your flare-ups. Other times, it feels like a mysterious game of ‘two steps forward, one step back’ – one that you didn’t agree to play in the first place. But the question always remains: what can you do to slowly get back on your feet again?
I like creating an action plan for recovery – a rough guide on how I intend to gradually rebuild my health. Do you need a strategy to help you bounce back from your health setback? Here are some essential items that you can put on your own recovery to-do list.
This is the first interview in a series about what it’s really like to cope with chronic illness every day. How do you deal with the physical symptoms, emotional turmoil and practical problems? Today Kaila Prins of In My Skinny Genes shares her story about living with an eating disorder and how blogging about it helped her heal.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a 26 (soon be 27–where did the time go?) year old Marketing Copywriter living in San Jose, CA. I’m also a certified personal trainer, an exercise addict, and a recovering anorectic. I currently blog about disordered eating and exercise at inmyskinnygenes.com and run the Finding Our Hunger podcast. On the podcast, we talk to everyday people as well as “personalities” about their journey instead of the end point, and we share stories of working through issues of disordered eating, body image, identity, career goals, perfectionism, and building community in this strange, wonderful constantly-changing world.
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