Even before we start kindergarten we’re taught nursery rhymes and how to rote count, with the timbre and rhythm of these traditional songs being known to help youngsters relax. Research suggests that as well as encouraging language and communication development, nursery rhymes help children develop better sleep patterns, plus they have an overall calming effect.
As we move through the grades at school, we progress from nursery rhymes and counting to reciting classic poems and multiplication tables, but the benefits of recitation are the same. As adults, we don’t get the same opportunities to recite or repeat on a daily basis – unless you have a child who requests We’re Going on a Bear Hunt or a rendition of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” at every bedtime.
So what are adults missing out on when they forego recitation?
Rhythmic patterns that mimic heart rate are therapeutic, the musicality a soothing balm for the soul. The benefits of this include reduced heart rate and blood pressure. For anyone who is prone to losing their cool, focusing on reciting can be a form of mindfulness – haven’t we all been told to take a deep breath and count to ten when we feel as though we’re about to snap? Taking a moment to reset can work wonders for restoring a sense of calm, which in turn has a positive effect on personal well-being, health, and relationships.
Many forms of recitation or chanting have links to faith. Within the Catholic church forms of prayer such as the rosary are built around repetition, and masses have a standardized format that involves repetition and recitation. In Buddhism, chanting is a way of showing devotion to Buddha as well as preparing the mind and body for meditation. Leyning, a Yiddish word for “chanting” or “singing,” describes how Jews practice recitations of the Hebrew bible and Sikhs’ morning prayers often include the Mool mantra, a chant to help them keep God at the heart of all they do.
However, opportunities to chant as an adult are not limited to worship. Yoga devotees are familiar with utilizing chanting for holistic benefits that complement body movement, with evidence suggesting this combination can relieve symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression – all of which are commonplace in modern society.
If you are new to chanting or unsure where to begin, the good news is that you can harness the physiological and psychological benefits regardless of what you chant. This is because chanting regulates your breathing pattern, which in turn has positive effects on your body. Oxygen travels more efficiently to muscles which reduces tension (including pressure-induced headaches and achy limbs) and relieves pain. You can choose a popular chant that speaks to you by exploring local groups or online demonstration videos or, if you prefer, can create your own mantra which brings you a sense of inner peace.
In a world where we are constantly seeking new methods to destress, perhaps it is time to instead embrace chanting and acknowledge the ancient wisdom of the correlation between a healthy body and a healthy mind.