Frequent readers of our publication know that meditation has scientifically proven cognitive and physical benefits.1 But meditation isn’t for everyone. If you haven’t developed your meditation skills yet, don’t worry.
Research shows there’s an easier way to reap many of the same brain benefits…
New research suggests that the simple action of humming can boost physical health and benefit mental health. In addition, it can help those who are experiencing cognitive decline in many of the same ways that a meditation practice can.
Best of all, unlike traditional meditation, humming can be done “on the go” and requires very little discipline. You can hum your favorite tune while unloading the dishwasher, feeding the dog, or even raking leaves.
Let’s explore the reasons why the benefits of humming are anything but ho-hum.
Your Sinuses Love Humming
Constant humming may drive your partner batty, but your sinuses will love it. Let’s find out why…
Research suggests that humming can boost airflow between the sinuses and the nasal cavity.2 It turns out, this helps protect the health of your sinuses. You see, humming creates turbulence in the air, which pushes it out more purposefully than quiet breathing. To better understand the mechanism, researchers measured nitric oxide, a gas produced in the sinuses.
Scientists found that humming dramatically increases the amount of nitric oxide released when exhaling. This proves that the air is moving out of the sinuses well.
Why is this important for health? When air and mucus become trapped inside the sinuses, the result can be pain and infection.
One of nitric oxide’s key functions is to relax your blood vessels, which improves blood flow and oxygen supply to your tissues. This widening of the blood vessels is also vital in lowering blood pressure.3
Calms Your Brain
Humming creates vibrations in the inner ear. In turn, these are picked up by the vagus nerve, the longest nerve in the body, extending from the brain stem to the belly.
One study found that ﬁve minutes of humming (using the yogic humming-bee breath) increased vagus nerve activity as measured by improved heart rate variability.4
Researchers explain that this puts breath in its optimal zone, sometimes referred to as flow state. No wonder humming is recommended for calming the mind and relieving stress.
In another study, researchers examined brain imaging after participants hummed the chant “om.” They found reduced activity in certain areas of the brain associated with depression.5
According to Psychology Today, the researchers speculated that the vibrations from this yogic humming may have stimulated the vagus nerve, which then sent out electrical signals that deactivated key areas of the brain.6
However, stress relief is not the only mental health benefit that humming offers. Research shows humming could be used as a tool to enhance care for those experiencing cognitive decline.7
The study found that the patient’s eating and feeding abilities increased when the caregiver was humming, in comparison to mealtimes sans humming.
Stress management is one of the pillars of healthy aging, especially when it comes to memory health. Humming could be another valuable tool in managing the madness of modern life that can deplete our bodies and our cognitive function.
That’s because the research shows that humming is self-soothing. It reduces stress and induces calmness. Importantly, it can lower heart rate and blood pressure, helping to produce stress-busting neurochemicals and fight chronic inflammation.
Next time I find myself humming a tune, I’ll remember that it’s not just a frivolous activity but a healthy habit that can help sharpen my brain health.