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The One Free, Easy Activity That Can Lower Your Stress Level

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image of woman exhausted laying over white chair, humming, lower stress
Cynthia Kittler
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Are you a woman who loves to travel? Then join our closed Facebook group, The Ethel On-The-Go, for women who enjoy exchanging tips and tricks when it comes to travel.

You may whistle while you work, but you should probably try humming. Yes, humming. It’s free, easy to do and has multiple health benefits.

But you have to do it consciously (more about how later) for a certain amount of time. Here’s everything you need to know

Why is humming good for you?

There’s a very technical medical answer for this one. According to recent studies, the sound vibrations you create when you hum calm your brain, your nervous system and relax your entire body. It has to do with your vagus nerve, one of 12 cranial nerves that help with digestion and regulate your heart rate and breathing, explains Gunjan Trivedi, a yoga therapist and life coach who studied humming as part of his doctoral research.

When you hum, your body generates 15 times more nitric oxide than slow breathing. Nitric oxide harms bacteria and viruses, improves your nervous system and increases your heart rate variability. When your nervous system is balanced, your body moves from the stress response to the relaxation response — and your ability to focus and to use logic increases, says Trivedi. It also helps with sleep, anxiety and depression — and it appears to work for everyone.

A small 2023 study found that humming lowers stress better than physical activity or sleep (though these activities have also been proven to reduce stress levels and positively impact your health).

How long do you need to hum?

To reap the physical benefits of humming, Trivedi recommends at least 20 minutes of daily practice for several weeks. For mental health benefits, try humming for a minimum of 10 minutes per day. Any amount of humming will have a positive effect if you do it properly.

How do you hum consciously?

It’s different than humming “Zippity Doo Dah” on your drive to work, explains Jonathan Goldman, who co-authored The Humming Effect with his wife, Andi Goldman. Start with a deep, relaxed breath, keeping your lips closed. Hum one note at a comfortable pitch, holding the note as long as possible. Then, take a deep breath and repeat at least four to five times. You may feel a little lightheaded, but this is normal. Then, take an equal number of silent deep breaths.

“It’s so amazing what something as simple as conscious humming can do,” says Andi. “If you’re really freaking out and stressed out, and you hum for a minute or even just 30 seconds, you’ll start to feel the physiological benefits.”

What about singing or just breathing?

The benefits of humming have to do with vibrations. While taking deep breaths is helpful, and singing seems like an easy alternative, you won’t get the same effects.

“The problem is that so many people are judgmental about their voice,” says Jonathan. “The one sound that’s universally non-judgmental is the hum, and the hum is the most powerful vibro-acoustical sound that we can make.”

Plus, adds Andi, when you hum with your mouth closed, you’re giving yourself an internal massage that goes directly into your body.

So, give it a try — you have the power to shift your anxiety levels one hum at a time.

How many of you hum? What do YOU do to relieve stress? Let us know in the comments below.

Follow Article Topics: Health