“I believe in singing.” – Brian Eno
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.
The Subjective Effects of Singing Every Day
Singing can have a powerful impact on your mood. Whether you’re belting out upbeat tunes on your commute to set a positive tone for the rest of your day or you’re releasing frustrations with angry songs, singing is an effective way to deal with your emotions and feelings – and even alter them.
On the second day of our monthly challenge, I wasn’t feeling too great. Feeling extremely tired and aching, I was struggling to get anything done. But surprisingly, singing five of my favourite uplifting songs really helped me push through the pain and fatigue so I could finish an important work task. That power boost lasted for roughly 1,5 hours, not bad!
And when later I was faced with huge disappointment and frustration, channeling my inner Beyonce stimulated me to kick ass and prove the person who was bothering me wrong. Ha!
So to me, singing is an amazing coping strategy to deal with physical and emotional hiccups – but even more, it brings me joy. And if that’s not important for my overall wellbeing, I don’t know what is.
What’s Been Going Well and What’s Been Challenging?
Getting back into a singing routine has not been a problem at all, probably in part because I knew in the back of my mind I couldn’t let you or Kaila down. It quickly became a habit again to carry my mp3 – player around as I was doing boring household chores. The only exception has been on weekends: I forgot to sing on both Sundays. Since my weekend rhythm is so different from weekdays, when I work from home on my own, there are less triggers to remind me to sing.
Except for one exhausted day, on average I’ve been singing 3 to 5 songs in one go. I’m curious whether 10 to 20 minutes a day is enough time to bring any physical results by the end of the month… We’ll see!
Maybe it’s just me, but singing every day and sitting behind a desk without proper activity breaks gave me a a hoarse voice due to breathlessness. For the last three days, I made an effort to go for a short walk and sing straight afterwards. Wow, what a difference that makes to the sound of my voice and my breathing capacity! I’m definitely planning on keeping this healthy habit combination up for the remainder of the Tune-Up.
The most fun I’ve had so far during this singing challenge was recording a video clip with my girlfriends for our 30th birthdays. Starring as Madonna look-al-likes, we endlessly sang ‘Material Girl’, danced around in pink dresses and weird costumes, and had such a blast. The end result is hilariously embarrassing – and will never ever be shared publicly – but that day brought exactly the kind of spontaneous joy and whimsy that I love about singing.
I’d love to hear your experiences: How is your One Month Tune-Up going so far? Have you been singing every day? Do you notice any small changes in your health and mood?
Please share your story in the comments!