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.
Unfortunately, Kaila’s singing challenge didn’t have the de-stressing effect she’d hoped for. And contrary to findings from scientific studies, singing at least one song on most days didn’t have any significant effect on my heart rate variability and (low) stress levels.
But doing this monthly experiment has reminded me of some important lessons.
1. Sticking to new habits is both easy and hard.
During the first weeks of our challenge, my days were flowing smoothly. It felt effortless to incorporate singing into my daily routine – it was a simple matter of belting out tunes while doing laundry or bringing my iPod on my mid-morning walk and coming home humming along.
But of course, life happens. A huge celebration and happy news took my mind off The One Month Tune-Up and I forgot to sing. When a lot of other things take up mental space – especially projects that disrupt your everyday routines like travel, important work projects or illness in your family – it becomes much harder to (remember to) stick to new-ish habits.
My take-away from this experiment: To build lasting habits, it helps to surround yourself with triggers that prompt you to do that desired behaviour now.
Now, I don’t have to spontaneously burst into song every day when I don’t feel like it. But it’s all too easy for me to get lost in responsibilities and forget to make time for more whimsical activities like singing on a regular basis. So hopefully making a conscious effort to listen to the radio more often and put my ear buds in when doing household chores will remind me to carry a tune at least a few times a week!
2. Music sets the tone for your day.
Listening to music you love can cheer you up, help you relax after a tiresome day or even move you to tears. Waking up with upbeat songs on the radio doesn’t just make you feel happier (unless you have a super bad mood in the morning of course), but it can even change how you see the world around you.
Making your own music through singing affects your mood even more. When you belt out a song, your body releases feel-good hormones and your breathing deepens. You tend to forget about your daily worries for a while, because you’re focused on the lyrics and melody. That combination of deep belly breaths and being in the present moment turns singing into a great mindfulness practice, leaving you feeling both calm and energised.
3. Singing is a powerful coping strategy.
For me, singing is a fun and effective way to to deal with physical pain, daily stresses or difficult situations. It boosts your mood, let’s you express your emotions when you’re struggling and can empower you to handle tough challenges.
No matter how bad your day is, crooning your favourite song will at least make it a little easier to bare. That’s why I love this quote from Voltaire that Kaila cited in her final update of The One Month Tune-Up:
“Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.”
4. Make time for spontaneous joy and whimsy.
During a busy period, bursting into song makes me think of the illustrious words of Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight: “Why so serious?!”
You see, one of the most annoying things of living with chronic illness is having such limited energy and always having to set priorities. And often, what I want to do is pushed back on my to-do list by things we all just have to do, like work tasks, household chores and appointments.
Singing and dancing along to uber girly songs brings back happy childhood memories of ballet lessons and doing musical theatre, being silly with friends, and the magical fantasizing of what life would be like when you’re all grown up. It reminds me that it’s not a luxury to make time for playful activities and mini adventures, but rather what brings out the best of me and what makes life so enjoyable.
So even though my One Month Tune-Up didn’t result in any measurable changes in heart rate variability, breathing or stress levels, this singing experiment brought me a few important reminders and a renewed singing habit.
If you participated in The One Month Tune-Up, have you noticed any changes in your health, mood or stress levels? Do you take away other life lessons? Please share your experiences in the comments below!
- Kaila’s Tune-Up Update Day 31: Singing in the Lifeboats (In My Skinny Genes)
- The One Month Tune-Up: Sing Away The Blues in 31 Days
- The One Month Tune-Up Update: How Does Singing Every Day Affect Our Health and Happiness?
- The Monthly Experiment Project (Monthly Experiments)