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  • Writer's pictureCarolyn Thomas

Mindfulness and the Voice


Welcome back to the blog! Last month we talked about music and mindfulness, but this month we are going a little deeper into this topic by exploring mindfulness specifically through the use of your own voice. As we know from last months' post, we know that mindfulness is a powerful tool that can help to ease the effects of anxiety, stress and other mental health issues. Mindfulness means to focus on the present moment and accept our circumstances for what they are, rather than worrying about or looking too far into the future. Music is a very helpful tool in this area, as it can relieve tension and requires focus and sustained attention, which can assist in quieting the mind and allowing relaxation to occur. Mindfulness through the voice and vocalising can bring about similar results, and offers a more active way of practicing mindfulness.


Using the voice as a tool for self-expression and self-discovery has been a part of human culture for thousands of years. Many traditional cultures have used chanting, singing, and vocalization as a way to connect with the divine, express emotions, and heal the body and mind. In recent years, modern science has started to explore the many benefits of using the voice in a mindful way.


One of the main benefits of using the voice in a mindful way is the ability to connect with oneself on a deeper level. By using the voice to express emotions and thoughts, individuals can tap into their innermost feelings and gain a better understanding of themselves. This process of self-discovery can help to reduce stress and anxiety, improve mood, and promote overall wellbeing. In addition, using the voice in a mindful way can also have physical benefits. Singing and chanting have been shown to improve respiratory function, strengthen the immune system, and promote relaxation. By using the voice in a mindful way, individuals can promote physical healing and reduce the risk of chronic health conditions.


There are many ways to incorporate the voice into a mindful practice. One popular method is through chanting or singing mantras. Mantras are repeated words or phrases that are used to focus the mind and promote relaxation. By chanting mantras, individuals can calm the mind, reduce stress, and connect with their inner selves. The repetition and rhythm of chanting or singing a mantra can allow the breathing to slow and become regulated, which is important in decreasing stress and anxiety. Additionally, using your voice to repeat positive affirmations can cause a strong feeling of relaxation and can calm the mind.


Another way to use the voice in a mindful way is through improvisation. Improvisation is the act of creating music on the spot, without any preconceived ideas or plans. By using the voice to improvise, individuals can express themselves freely and connect with their innermost emotions. This can be an incredibly helpful tool in recovery from anxiety and stress, because when someone is in a flow state of improvisation, they can become less guarded and can learn to explore their innermost feelings in an expressive way, often revealing things through improvisation that they didn't realise they felt. However, this can be a distressing practice when done alone, so it may be important to explore this method in the safety of a music therapy session, where the therapist can be guiding and creating a safe space for such vulnerable expression.


The overall reason that the voice is able to create a sense of mindfulness and calm is due to the fact that the vocal cords are directly connected to the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is a long nerve that controls most of the parasympathetic nervous system, including mood control, heart rate, digestion and immune responses. The parasympathetic nervous system is basically the opposite of the fight-or-flight response (the sympathetic nervous system) in that it is responsible for taking care of automatic systems in the body and calming down after fight-or-flight situations. When we use our voice, we are directly influencing the vagus nerve, and can therefore trigger the parasympathetic nervous system into action, instead of the sympathetic nervous system. Therefore, singing or vocalising can help the body to relax after stressful events, improve mood and control heart rate.


There are many ways that you can use your voice to improve your mental health through mindfulness practices, and I encourage you to try some of them out! My favourites include singing along to my favourite songs, improvising vocally and singing with others. Some things you could try today to use your voice mindfully could be humming or singing to your favourite songs, improvising with your voice (which doesn't need to include words, by the way - you can sing anything!), joining a community choir, or following a guided meditation that includes using your voice. If you use your voice mindfully in another way or if you end up trying one of these options, please let me know below! I'd love to hear how your experience was.


Thanks so much for reading, and I hope you'll come back next time for our next installment of the Thrive Journal. I appreciate you taking the time, and I hope this has been helpful for you. Please feel free to leave me a comment below, or connect with me on socials - I'd love to hear from you!


Until next time,


Carolyn















To learn more, please visit:

  1. Loewy, J. (2011). Music therapy and the voice. Journal of Music Therapy, 48(2), 169-185.

  2. Fancourt, D., Ockelford, A., & Belai, A. (2014). The psychoneuroimmunological effects of music: A systematic review and a new model. Brain, behavior, and immunity, 36, 15-26.

  3. Kiefer, J. (2018). The healing power of improvisation. Music Therapy Perspectives, 36(2), 141-148.

  4. Khalfa, S., Bella, S. D., Roy, M., Peretz, I., & Lupien, S. J. (2003). Effects of relaxing music on salivary cortisol level after psychological stress. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 999(1), 374-376.

  5. https://www.musichealth.ai/blog/music-and-the-vagus-nerve


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