Everyone knows the research that states that exercising releases endorphins–a hormone that makes you feel good. But, am I the only one that can enter a Pilates class sort of down in the dumps and leave without experiencing any significant mood shift? I don’t think so.
Just today I was feeling blah, numb, weighted down, and stressed but I pushed myself to go to a class telling myself I’d be glad I did. Honestly, besides feeling my muscles shaking, I didn’t leave feeling differently. I walked a few blocks under mental gray skies feeling bad, bad, bad–worse for having tried and failed to trigger endorphins.
And then out of nowhere, I noticed that I had a song playing in my head that I hadn’t been aware of before. “I need a hero, I’m holding out for a hero till the end of the night. He’s gotta be strong and he’s gotta be fast and he’s gotta be straight from the fight.”
Not familiar with it? It’s the lyrics to Bonnie Tyler’s ‘Holding Out For a Hero’ circa 1984 from the movie Footloose. If you know it, it has already taken over your brain. Sorry! At first I had no idea why it was in my head, but then I remembered that I had heard it a few days ago in the movie, The Way, Way Back (which I highly recommend by the way).
So, anyway, I noticed this song was in my head. I was trying to remember the exact words, and then I thought, ‘WTF-I’m gonna sing this out loud.’ It seemed to want to burst out of my brain and out my mouth. So I did. NYC is so loud, there is constant construction and firetrucks, ambulances and buses, I’m sure no one heard me. I could barely hear me. But I was INSTANTLY happier. ‘I need a hero’ I sang, as I continued on and on. I started making fun of the song, remembering the funny moment in the movie, feeling funky for singing out loud on the street, bopping my head around to the beat that only I heard, making up alternate lyrics. It was FUN. I had to stop myself from leaping up in the air. It was all taking on a life of its own. Which is my point…suddenly I had life.
Singing just one silly chorus of a song totally changed my outlook. I felt recharged. Energetic. Playful. Care-free. Light in my heart, in my head and in my body. I noticed gratitude for my life sneaking in where before there was only boo-hoo. Nothing bothered me. Not the ice cream truck song that clashed with the one I was singing, not the dog poop I nearly stepped in, not the drills or the ‘beep beep’ of a truck in reverse. Nothing.
One hour and 15 minutes later, I walked the exact same streets I did before but I felt happy instead of depressed. Turns out, singing releases endorphins too, and oxytocin which alleviates anxiety and stress. My soul was soothed and my spirit lifted, and whatever was bothering me and getting me down before had been taken care of by melody and rhythm and lyrics and connecting into the power of music.
Now those of you who know me, or have read some of my articles, know I’m not one for magic cures, so I’m not trying to say that everyone can just sing their troubles away. That would be way too simplistic. But I am one who acknowledges experiences and this was such a great reminder for me of how singing even just a little bit actually lifts the quality of our lives just as much (if not more) as exercising and moving our bodies.
So next time you’re feeling sad or blue, see if there’s any song that’s floating around in your head that you can give voice to and have fun with. Maybe you’ll even take a few wild leaps like I wanted to 😉
Copyright Ruth Levy 2013