Humming (And Why You Should Hum More Often)


“I listen to the cacophony of sounds coming from the rice fields in the darkest hours of night. Without fail, an invisible army of insects and reptiles join together to create the most intoxicating of sounds”.  Graeme Dinnen

We all know how to hum but when did you last do it?

Recently I hope.

Humming through your nose or mouth has an abundance of benefits other than just elevating your mood.

Want some proof? 

Hum a favourite song for the next 20 seconds.  Go on. 

Don’t waste time deciding on what your favourite song is.  Just pick one and hum away.

A bouncy song rather than something by Leonard Cohen.

Remember to do it for 20 seconds, with gusto!

Do you feel better?  

There's no faster way to boost your spirits, slow down your heart beat, lower your blood pressure and calm your mind than by humming a happy tune. 

It’s more than just a frivolous activity that can offer extraordinary shifts.

Take the study carried out at the London Zoological Society. Results showed that two thirds of participants said they hummed when they were happy, especially when in the shower, listening to the radio, driving or walking somewhere. (Some did admit to being annoyed by the cheery humming of others).

There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that the simple act of humming helps to ease stress (without the need for pharmaceuticals) and keep your sinuses healthy by creating turbulence in the air which in turn pushes out more air than regular breathing does.  

The key to all this is the increase in the production of nitric oxide, released on exhaling. 

Nitric oxide is up there among the most important chemicals our body can produce.  It widens our blood vessels, important for the prevention of coronary disease.

Humming (specifically “bee buzz humming”) is also used in an array of meditation, yoga and breathwork practices.

Deeply rooted in human evolutionary history, humming (or its early equivalent) is believed to have been like animal contact calls - sounds that let animals know that they’re safe  among members of their own group with no predators around.

Today, humming may still communicate that all is well.

Nikola Tesla told us “If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.” 

Guess what humming is?

Self-created sounds are ideal for creating an internal massage affecting our glands, organs and body systems.  Of all the self-created sounds, the most powerful for vibro- acoustic resonance is humming.

Back to yoga for a moment. The meditation chant "OM" ends on a humming sound. Researchers speculate that vibrations from the “OM" chant stimulates the vagus nerve.

And stimulating the vagus nerve is a h-u-g-e deal because this sends out electrical signals that deactivate key areas of the brain.

Put another way - you relax more.

When you hum, the muscles in your face, neck, head and shoulders relax. This activates the parasympathetic nervous system (triggers relaxation response in the body), helps reduce unproductive thinking and reduces negativity.

I’ve been asked if humming hurts the vocal chords.  Quite the opposite.  Singers hum to warm up their voice.

Humming also produces melatonin so hum a little before you go to bed. 

It’ll switch your brainwave rhythms from left-brain activities to right-hemisphere functions. 

You’ll transition from Beta to Alpha and even to Theta as you hum. 

Humming in Music

What’s next?  Where do we go after humming?  

Buying a Kazoo?  Whistling? The centuries-old whistling language of remote villages in Europe?  Gregorian Chant from the Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos in Spain? 

I went for the easier option of searching for examples of humming music on YouTube.  

Was I in for a pleasant surprise!

At first I’d pick music that featured humming - Enya (The Humming), music from the hobbit (Misty Mountains Cold), Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones (acappella version of the Theme Song), even the Crash Test Dummies hit (Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm).  

Then I came across something I hadn’t heard for some years - Mongolian Throat Singing.

Wow! Was I blown away by the travelling ambassadors of Throat Singing, Huun-Huur-Tu (translates as “sunbeam”)?  

There’s something uniquely powerful about this music; it fascinates me the way certain music makes us feel deeply connected to something greater than ourselves.

Huun-Huur-Tu are from Tuva, a mountainous region between Russia and Mongolia.

Whether it’s your cup of tea or not, give it a listen when you’re not in a rush to do something else.

Here’s one of their recordings.  Listen particularly to the deep guttural song Kargyraa that is introduced at 15:39

If, like me, you don’t know the words, just hum along.

Graeme Dinnen

Graeme Dinnen