Lifestyle

hum

Hum a Favorite Tune

I’m a very tense backseat driver. When road conditions are dangerous, my clutched hands, feet moving toward an imaginery brake pedal, and spontaneous outcries can put any conscientious driver into a state of panic. So last winter I tried something new. When the traction and visibility were severely limited, I hummed Christmas carols softly to myself – for about 90 miles! My partner, who tends to be very attuned to my moods, commented that my serenity helped dissipate his nervousness and aided his focus .

Stress is a silent killer. It elevates cortisol levels, which, when chronic, raise blood pressure, disrupt digestion, abet sugar issues, exacerbate inflammation, and skew hormone balance. But humming can change all that!

Your vagus nerve runs right past your vocal chords; humming helps tone that nerve! From this previous post, you know that when the vagus nerve is strong and resilient, so are you! You are less likely to stay in “fight-or-flight” when you are triggered, and everything from your inner organs to your external relationships benefits! You are able to maintain that more relaxed parasympathetic state, and even your blood sugar levels become more stable.

It doesn’t work to just think a song in your head, though. There has to be actual vibration to bring about the benefits. But apparently, it doesn’t matter whether you hum a melody or just create a monotone sound. The longer the voice is engaged, the greater the results. At least one study shows that humming for even five minutes can reduce diastolic blood pressure significantly.

Other benefits to the parasympathetic nervous system include:

  • slowed breathing
  • relaxed muscles of the head, shoulders, and neck
  • greater focus, mental clarity
  • subdued anxiety, enhanced cheer
  • deeper sleep
  • increased blood oxygenation
  • softened abdominal tension

Here’s a fun exercise to try the next time you find yourself getting angry, frustrated, or overwhelmed: unleash your inner pirate! Start with a deep growling “aaarrrrgh!” Prolong  the vowel, keeping your mouth open and sound resonating. Then slowly raise the pitch and tone of the cry into one more melodic. Try imitating an opera star or singing “hallelujah!” Notice your mood change as you continue to add vocal fluctuations.

Humming not only can be healthy, it can be fun, too!

 

Need a Vagus Nerve Tune-Up?

Life is coming at you fast and furious! You want to feel strong but you’re just too tired to start anything new. You know you should eat better – but there’s no time to cook. You try to stay hydrated; you didn’t even remember lunch, let alone a water bottle. Your conscience nags you about exercising. Sheesh, getting out of bed is a work-out!

But darling, you can find pleasure in toning your vagus nerve, and the very act of doing so will diminish some of your stress and begin to change you physically. With enough practice, you may find your stamina improves.

The vagus nerve is the master mind of the anti-stress network in the body. It stretches from the brain to the intestines, affecting the heart and lungs, the liver and kidneys, stomach and spleen. When it is toned, people have more balanced blood sugars, are less susceptible to depression, are more able to concentrate and remember, have more fulfilling relationships, and are less likely to be plagued by inflammation in the body.

The more toned your vagus nerve, the more quickly you can recover from a situation that puts you into “fight, flight, or freeze.”  Although some of us are born with less tone than others, engaging in just one uncomplicated activity each day can strengthen that tone.

Here are a dozen of my favorites ways to do so:

  1. Humming or singing
  2. Laughing
  3. Meditating
  4. Deep breathing
  5. Washing my face in cold water
  6. Praying
  7. Taking Probiotics
  8. Thinking positive thoughts
  9. Serving others
  10. Getting a massage
  11. Expressing gratitude
  12. Aromatherapy

Dr. Arielle Schwartz, psychologist, explains that like Goldilocks, “we recognize we are ‘too hot’ when we feel keyed up, anxious, irritable, or panicky. We are too ‘too cold’ when we are shut down, depressed, or feeling hopeless. Sometimes we alternate between the two which is like driving with one foot on the gas and one on the brakes. Practices that regulate the vagus nerve are aimed towards either relaxing or re-energizing ourselves depending upon what is needed to feel ‘just right.’”

No matter how poorly you feel, you are never too out of balance to engage your vagus nerve.