As Mental Health Awareness Month draws to a close, I hope you have increased self awareness and are noticing when you’re not feeling emotionally well. Respond to these times with self-care. Self-care doesn’t need to take all day, and it is not selfish, rather it is the way to make sure you can be your healthiest and strongest, so when others need you, you offer the world your best self.
Anxiety and depression are two of the most common types of emotional dis-ease. With all of the unrest and uncertainty in the world recently, almost all of us have felt some sort of emotional discomfort. Depending on which source you read, somewhere between 40% and 80% of people are reported to have had some sort of mental health crisis in the last year. Regardless of the statistics, all of us have felt some discomfort in the form of fear, anxiety, or depression brought on by limited activities and social contacts, fear of COVID, and disrupted routines.
I’ve discussed some simple ways to manage anxiety and other forms of emotional discomfort in previous blogs. Getting good deep sleep is number one. Calming and clearing the mind through the use of breathing techniques is another very useful tool. One of my favorite breathing techniques, that you can use anytime, anywhere and is practically guaranteed to improve your mood:
Singing is self care! Remember how good it felt to sing at the top of your lungs to your favorite song on the car radio? Maybe you still do this (I do). Doesn’t it always feel great? Singing as a mindful activity provides all of the benefits of mindfulness for your brain and body. Just like many of the breath techniques I teach regularly, singing is an extended exhale. Extending your exhale stimulates your Vagus nerve, the manager of your parasympathetic nervous system. This is the part of your nervous system that is in charge of rest, digestion, strengthening the immune system, and keeping blood pressure and heart rate low and healthy.
Fear, brought on by things outside your immediate control, like reading the news for example, tricks your body into the stress response. Your body can’t tell the difference between news and an immediate physical threat, so it readies you for a fight or flee by increasing blood pressure, heart rate and takes energy from less ugent things like immunity and digestion.
A very simple way to counteract the stress response and let your body know it’s not in danger is … yes you guessed it, singing!
You can sing anywhere, yes I sing (and dance) in the grocery store. But if you feel self-conscious, singing quietly can have the same health benefits. Or, you can hum! Or whistle. “Whistle a happy tune and every single time the happiness in the tune…” It all has the same effect on your physiology and your mood.
Quick, right now think of your favorite upbeat song and sing a few lines! Do you have a go-to song that feels like your power anthem? I have a playlist on Spotify called “Anthems” my loudest most fun dance around and sing loudly songs, guaranteed to improve my well being. After I play, sing, and dance to those six songs I am always in the best mood, and I got a little bit of cardio in too!
I challenge you to sing your favorite song today, tonight, and tomorrow. Or hum it, or just silently breathe as you run the song through your mind as if you were singing it. You could even do that last one during a virtual meeting and no one would know!
Sing for your health, sing for well-being, sing for your healing.
Let me know how it goes!