The History Behind Humming

The simplest sound we can make is humming, so it makes perfect sense that we can't help but hum to ourselves sometimes, no matter where we are. In recent years, research has shown that humming can be much more than just a self-soothing sound we make: it can also affect us on a physical level and can help in reducing stress, promoting calmness, enhancing sleep, and lowering our heart rate. Humming activates our lungs as if they were breathing, so it encourages us to focus on our breath. When we hum, we breathe more mindfully, which brings our heart rate and stress level down. Humming helps activate our parasympathetic nervous system, which lowers your heart rate and increases intestinal and glandular activity, which cues your body to calm down and operate more smoothly.

A great deal of social animals produce haphazard, indistinct sounds while going about their daily activities, so humming might have played a significant role in early human evolution. In the event of danger, animals stop moving or making any sounds, remaining silent while on the lookout for danger, letting their kin know they are among kin, and there is no danger. The rest of the animals will pick up that something is wrong and scan the environment for any possible danger. Charles Darwin was the first to notice this phenomenon on the example and applied the same for humans, silence can be a sign of danger, and that’s why gentle humming and musical sounds actually serve to relax humans, like lullabies and songs.

In addition to making you feel calmer, which can help us reach a more mindful state, humming can help clear our thoughts. Try humming a few long notes the next time your mind feels crowded, and see if it helps clear your head. Humming is healthy for us for one more reason: it makes us happy! When we sing along to our favorite tune, endorphins are released into our bodies, a substance that enhances our wellbeing. So if you like to hum, feel free to indulge knowing it’s doing good things to your body.

Take a few minutes to be in a state of quiet, and observe what happens to you during humming while counting 25 hums. 

The difference is noticeable after five minutes of humming—sometimes even less. Most of the time, we hum unconsciously, unaware of the vibroacoustic effects of the sound. In addition to the fact that you do not have to be a musician to hum, once we focus on this there is a tremendous and powerful shift in experiencing the results of the hum.  You don’t even need to be able to carry a “tune in a bucket.”  All you need is a voice.


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