I was sitting in front of a blank computer screen, racking my brain for a blog topic to close out 2021 when I came across an article[1] that discussed humming and how it is supportive of the immune system as well as shifting out of a stressed state and into a parasympathetic state. I was intrigued and had to know more!

I mean if humming could deliver on both counts that would be BIG NEWS. Why? Because humming is free and accessible to everyone. It is also a way for people to have a bit of control over their health amidst nearly two years of pandemic-driven worry. We could all use a bit of that.

How humming supports the immune system:

  • Increases nasal nitric oxide 15-fold[2]
    • Nitric oxide acts as a broad-spectrum antibacterial agent (antibiotic)[3]
    • Nitric oxide acts as a vasodilator (dilates blood vessels)[4] and bronchodilator[5] (expands airways, the trachea, and the bronchioles) which increases circulation overall allowing for a greater amount of oxygen to be carried by the blood and into the lungs
      • “Better circulation means your body is getting more fuel for all its inner workings, immune functions included.” (Anderson, 2021)
    • Nitric oxide has been shown to have some inhibitory action against SARS-CoV-2[6]

Ok, so it’s clear that nitric oxide had immune-supportive benefits. What about the claim that we can use humming to help us shift into a parasympathetic state?

What is the parasympathetic state and why is it relevant? The autonomic nervous system is made up of the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems. In broad terms, the sympathetic nervous system is responsible for stress responses like fight, flight, and freeze while the parasympathetic nervous system manages the opposite rest, digest, and repair. Ideally, these two systems would be in balance with each other.

In today’s world, most people are sympathetic dominant due to constant stress triggered by our:

  • Commute
  • Job
  • Family life
  • Financial responsibilities
  • Health status, among many other things.

Our bodies respond to stress by increasing our heart rate, blood flow is diverted away from reproductive and digestion-related organs in favor of our muscles. Experiencing stress literally causes our bodies to prepare for physical battle. We are not designed to thrive in a chronically stressed state which is why actively working to shift into a more relaxed state should be a part of your health plan. Humming can help.

Humming is a technique used to activate the vagus nerve which is the primary nerve of the parasympathetic nervous system.[7] [8] Check out this video for more info on and a demonstration of how to stimulate the vagus nerve by humming.

How to hum:

  • Take a deep breath
  • Slowing exhale while humming, keep your mouth closed
  • At the end of your exhale and with your mouth closed, inhale deeply through your nose
  • Repeat several times throughout the day or as needed to mitigate stress

The key is to keep your mouth closed on the inhale. This draws in the nitric oxide, generated by humming, into your lungs where you will reap the immune system benefits discussed above along with the relaxation effect.

You can incorporate humming into your daily routine while:

  • Walking the dog
  • Doing the dishes
  • As part of a meditation or yoga practice
  • Lying in bed
  • Listening to music
  • In the shower
  • Journaling
  • Working in the garden

You get the idea! Humming is an easy and free way to support your immune and mental health. Let me know if you give humming a try.

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[1] Humming Could Help Prevent Illness, Science Shows | Shape

[2] Humming Greatly Increases Nasal Nitric Oxide | American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine (atsjournals.org)

3] Exogenous Nitric Oxide Improves Antibiotic Susceptibility in Resistant Bacteria | ACS Infectious Diseases

[4] COVID-19: Nitric oxide shows promise as antiviral treatment (medicalnewstoday.com)

[5] Inhaled Nitric Oxide | Circulation (ahajournals.org)

[6] Mitigation of the replication of SARS-CoV-2 by nitric oxide in vitro – ScienceDirect

[7] Natural Vagus Nerve Stimulation | Dr. Arielle Schwartz (drarielleschwartz.com)

[8] Sing in the Shower to Make Friends With Your Vagus Nerve | Psychology Today