Singing Your Way to Better Mental Health: How Vocal Expression Can Help Manage Stress
In the global quest to manage stress and enhance mental health, we often overlook the simplest yet most profound tools available to us. Amidst a life filled with challenges and high stress levels, it's crucial to find effective ways to relieve stress.
Recently, I found myself delivering a stress management workshop to reporters, NGO workers, and other organizational employees who operate in high-risk areas of the world.
What may come as a surprise to some is that many of the stress-management techniques that we use and teach around stress management actually comes back to one thing: singing technique. Singing, an activity that combines deep breathing, physical activity, and emotional expression, emerges as a powerful ally in our journey to mental and emotional wellness.
Understanding Stress and Its Impact on Mental Health
Stress is an unavoidable part of life, but when it becomes chronic, or we suppress it: stress can lead to a host of mental and physical health issues. High stress levels can trigger a stress response in the body, elevating blood pressure, and weakening the immune system. It can also lead to negative thoughts and unhealthy habits, further impacting our overall well-being.
The implications of maintained high stress levels can be even more dire:
Respiratory or cardiovascular problems, including - but not limited to an increased risk of heart attack or stroke
Interference with the reproductive systems in both men and women
Body aches, headaches and inflammation
A heightened fight or flight response, which leads to negative impacts on both the nervous system and the immune system
Digestive issues, including heartburn, nausea, diarrhea, and indigestion
Increased chance of developing diabetes, as a result of an increased release of glucose in the body when stressed
There's a fantastic TED Talk from Nadine Burke-Harris on how significant stress and trauma from childhood [or ACE's - Adverse Childhood Experiences] can impact on future adult health as well. You can find out more about her research here.
But stress isn't just something young people experience. We ALL struggle in stressful situations, and therefore: we all need to find ways to lower stress levels, and thrive in life.
So what does singing have to do with it?
Turning out: everything.
Singing: A Holistic Approach to Manage Stress
Singing is a multifaceted activity that can significantly reduce stress and improve mental health. Here’s how:
Deep Breathing: Singing involves deep breathing exercises, which are known to reduce stress and lower blood pressure. This kind of breathing helps to calm the stress response, promoting relaxation.
Physical Activity: While not as intense as some forms of physical activity, singing still requires physical effort, which helps in releasing endorphins, the body's natural stress-relievers.
Combating Negative Thoughts: The process of creating music and focusing on lyrics can redirect attention away from negative thoughts, a common issue for those struggling with high stress levels. This is especially effective if the songs you're singing are songs YOU have written yourself.
Boosting the Immune System: Engaging in joyful singing can boost the immune system, which is often compromised by prolonged stress.
Promoting Self-Care: Taking time to sing and engage in music is an act of self-care, a critical component in managing life's stresses.
Practical Tips to Incorporate Singing into Your Stress Management Routine
Regular Breathing Exercises: Incorporate singing into your daily routine as a form of breathing exercise. Even humming a tune can help calm your mind.
Join a Choir or Singing Group: This not only provides a regular outlet for singing but also helps in building a community, reducing feelings of isolation.
Create a Singing Ritual: Dedicate a specific time of day for singing to ensure it becomes a part of your life. This can be an uplifting way to start or end your day.
Write and Sing Your Own Songs: Channel your feelings into songwriting. This creative process can be incredibly therapeutic in managing stress.
Mindful Singing: Practice singing mindfully, paying attention to each note and word, which can help in reducing stress levels and improving mental clarity.
Incorporating singing into your life is not just about musical expression; it's a holistic approach to manage stress and improve mental health. By combining deep breathing, physical activity, and emotional expression, singing can help relieve stress, reduce negative thoughts, and enhance your overall quality of life. Let your voice be heard, and let the melodies you create guide you to a more relaxed and joyful state of mind.
If you want to dive deep into how singing can be beneficial for you and your stress management, click here to send me a message, and I'll happily send you some complementary and integrative vocal exercises for you to use to help you manage your everyday life stress, or even your more long term stress.
While you're at it, you can grab a copy of my songwriting from stress journal over on Amazon, or simply book a call with me to find out more about how singing and/or songwriting might be just the thing you need moving into 2024 to help you with managing stress, overcoming muscle tension, and getting back to your positive attitude.
I look forward to speaking with you soon,
~ Emma G