Singing and music
Singing is proven to be a feel-good activity, with significant health benefits for both our physical and psychological wellbeing. Studies have shown that endorphins and oxytocin are released when we sing, two of the feel-good hormones that help to lower stress levels and lift our mood. Also, because we tend to exhale more slowly when we sing we can feel more relaxed, because regulating our breathing regulates our blood flow. Many people say they feel more positive and confident after singing. Plus it’s a great way to express ourselves.
Singing can also help us to be more aware of thoughts and emotions, which is so important for our mental wellbeing. When we’re singing, we have to focus, which means we are more mindful of what we are thinking and feeling in that moment. This means we are less likely to be distracted by worries or negative thoughts.
As social creatures, singing as part of a group can also be hugely beneficial (even we can only currently do it over video calls due to movement restrictions). Connection with others is a really important part of positive mental wellbeing and as an ancient tradition, singing has long been used by many cultures to bring people together. It can be a great way to bond with others and helps us to connect through a shared enjoyment of music. This sense of connection is particularly important during these challenging times.
There are also physical benefits to singing as well. The impact of reducing stress in the body can make your immune system function better, which, as the body’s natural defence mechanism, is so important. And for those of you who suffer with asthma, you might also want to give singing a go, as it requires you to develop good breath control, which can regulate your breathing and increase your lung capacity. And even just listening to your favourite music can release dopamine, a hormone that contributes to our sense of happiness.
It doesn’t matter how good you are, put your camera on mute if you’re feeling self conscious doing it over Zoom! Or if you prefer to sing solo, put on your favourite tunes and just sing to yourself around the house. But just enjoy all the benefits singing has to offer. It really can lift our mood, relieve stress and make us feel good.
Working regular walks into your routine is a great way to achieve your recommended weekly target of 150 minutes of physical activity. It’s free, easy and can be done just about anywhere, even on the spot while waiting for the kettle to boil. A brisk walk is best, not too fast so you get out of breath, and not so slow that you don’t feel the benefit. Make the most of breaks to your routine, especially in the summer while the weather is nice. Plus spending time outdoors is linked with improved mental wellbeing and a change of scenery can help you focus when you get back to work.
In a study of over 260,000 people in the UK, it was found that there were significantly fewer incidences of cardiovascular disease and cancer in people who commuted to work actively through walking or cycling compared to those who used cars or public transport. Regular walking has also been shown to have psychological benefits such as improving mood and decreasing feelings of anxiety.
Plus there are proven health benefits to spending time outdoors and noticing the world around you. Be creative with the routes you take, explore your local area and walk down paths or streets you’ve never explored before.
The mental health benefits of gardening are widely documented, with research showing gardening can reduce feelings of depression, loneliness, anxiety and stress. Being in nature, or even just watching nature out of a window, can have a neurological impact on our brain chemistry and make us feel better.
Gardening helps us to be in the here and now. We know anxiety worsens when people focus on the past or worry about the future. But being in and around the garden and the ever-changing magic of nature helps us to focus on what is happening right now and appreciate that moment. Also, gardening brings with it responsibility and purpose, along with the routine of nurture and care. Gardens need attention, plants need watering, birds need feeding. Responsibility is good for your mental health, as it gives you a sense of worth and purpose to your days, something that many of us are craving at the moment.
Working on your garden is an excellent way to get all-round exercise for improving strength, endurance and flexibility, as well as reducing levels of obesity and the risk of high blood pressure, heart diseases, diabetes and strokes. Three to four hours of gardening can burn as many calories as an hour at the gym, and releases the ‘feel good hormone’, endorphins, which make people feel happy and relaxed. It also has a positive impact on your mental health, lowering stress and improving sleep, as well as aiding weight loss which helps with self-esteem (especially if, like us, you and the fridge are becoming overly familiar during lockdown).