Illustration: Naomi Elliott


The restorative power of singing to yourself

 We all find it hard to relax, but it’s about finding whichever way works for you. Even if, like Alice Tate, it's a secret sing-a-long

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By Alice Tate on

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One of the things I was most excited about when we bought our new house was the bath. Finally, a bath! But we moved in two months ago now and I still haven’t had a single one. I’ve been totally overrun with work, spent every weekend away and, frankly, finding even 30 minutes to have a soak has eluded me.

I know the importance of taking breaks, I do, but I’ll admit I don’t follow advice well. I have a full-time job, I freelance and I do a couple of social-media projects on the side. I cycle to work or run and, when I get home, I cook dinner for my partner and I (he works late), do the washing, then get round to doing my blog with a medicinal glass of wine. Breathers don’t happen as much as they should, I know that. And maybe if they did, I’d spend a bit more time feeling a little less overwhelmed. And if it’s impossible to find 30 minutes, what about just 10? And how can I make the most of it so I really *do* switch off?

It’s a well-established fact that listening to music is one of the best stress relievers and there have been lots of studies into it. At the weekend, we always have music blasting through the house, so I give it a go when I’m sitting at my computer. I close all my tabs, open Spotify and turn the volume up on Caribou.

Instantly, I find myself in a better place. The music carries me through and I find myself ignoring emails and social media. I stop freaking out about the fact I have two deadlines tomorrow and start singing along, tapping my foot and enjoying reminiscing about watching them live earlier in the summer.

When I return to my screen, everything feels calmer. I’m still humming as I power on through, firing out the emails I’ve been putting off for hours.

Singing isn’t likely to be quite so welcome in the workplace, but our work, mental state and stress levels would be better off for it

There is a lot of evidence that shows that singing to yourself is a stress reliever. Apparently, it releases endorphins, a hormone associated with pleasure, as well as oxytocin, "the bonding hormone", which has been found to alleviate anxiety and stress, and enhance the feelings of trust. There’s research to show it’s good for mental awareness, concentration, posture and healthy breathing patterns. Further findings at Harvard and Yale have shown it can even help you live longer, due to a happier mental state and healthy heart (singing is classed as an aerobic activity, as it increases oxygenation in the bloodstream). And there are even results from the University of California that show singing increases the levels of immune-system proteins in saliva.

So, while singing isn’t likely to be quite so welcome in the workplace (I can see the daggers from my CFO if I go in and suggest a weekly sing-a-long, which I, by the way, would be fine with…), it’s likely that our work, mental state and stress levels would be better off for it. So, next time you have 10 minutes alone — in the shower, in the park, on your own in a Tube carriage — try letting out a few dulcet tones and see how you feel as a result.


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Illustration: Naomi Elliott
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Breathing Space

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