Why do people hum? Expressing Feelings Through Sound 2023

From the joyous melodies we sing in the shower to the catchy tunes we hum absentmindedly while working, human beings have an innate inclination for creating music. Amidst this musical inclination, a peculiar phenomenon emerges: humming. Why do people hum?

What drives us to emit those gentle, wordless vibrations that bring comfort and satisfaction? Humming has been observed across cultures and throughout history, and its significance extends beyond a simple expression of melody.

In this exploration, we delve into the fascinating reasons behind why people hum, uncovering the multifaceted nature of this seemingly ordinary act and unraveling its profound effects on our emotions, memories, and well-being.

What is humming?

why do people hum

Humming is a musical sound produced by humans using their vocal cords. It involves creating a steady, continuous sound by expelling air through the closed lips or with the mouth slightly open. The sound is produced without the use of words or clear pitches, and it often consists of a low, steady tone.

Also, humming can serve various purposes and is commonly used in different contexts. It can be a way to express contentment, relaxation, or concentration. Many people also hum while listening to music or to occupy themselves when engaged in repetitive tasks.

Furthermore, humming can be performed in various styles, such as a simple sustained note or a more complex melody. It allows individuals to explore their vocal range and experiment with different tones and rhythms. Additionally, some forms of meditation and breathing exercises incorporate humming as a means to enhance focus and promote relaxation.

Overall, humming is a versatile and enjoyable human activity that adds a musical element to everyday life.

The science behind why people hum

The act of humming has both physiological and psychological aspects that contribute to why people engage in it.

Here are some scientific explanations for why people hum:

  1. Psychological Expression: Humming often serves as a means of self-expression and emotional release. It allows individuals to express their feelings, create a sense of comfort, and regulate emotions. Humming can be a form of relaxation, stress reduction, or a way to cope with anxiety.
  2. Neural Pathways: Humming activates various neural pathways in the brain. When we hum, the auditory cortex processes the sound, and the motor cortex controls the vocal muscles involved in producing the hum. This coordinated neural activity can have positive effects on mood and cognitive function.
  3. Vocal Resonance: Humming produces vibrations that resonate within the vocal tract and the body. This resonance can create a pleasant sensation and stimulate the release of endorphins, which are known to contribute to a sense of well-being.
  4. Breath Control and Relaxation: Humming requires controlled exhalation and diaphragmatic breathing. This type of breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system, promoting relaxation and reducing stress. It can help slow down heart rate, lower blood pressure, and induce a state of calmness.
  5. Cognitive Stimulation: Humming can engage multiple cognitive processes simultaneously. It involves auditory perception, rhythm recognition, memory recall (when humming familiar tunes), and attentional focus. This cognitive engagement can enhance concentration and mental clarity.
  6. Social Bonding: Humming is often seen as a communal activity. People may hum together during group singing, musical performances, or cultural traditions. This shared experience fosters a sense of connection, belonging, and social cohesion.

While these explanations provide insights into the scientific aspects of why people hum, it’s important to note that the act of humming is also influenced by cultural, personal, and contextual factors.

How humming affects our brain and body

Humming can have positive effects on our brains and body. Let’s explore how it affects us:

  1. Calming and Relaxing: When we hum, it requires us to take slow, deep breaths. This activates our relaxation response, which helps reduce stress and anxiety. It can make us feel more peaceful and calm.
  2. Mood Booster: Humming triggers the release of endorphins, which are natural chemicals in our brains that make us feel good. It can uplift our mood and bring about a sense of happiness and contentment.
  3. Focus and Concentration: Humming engages our brains in various ways. It requires us to pay attention to the rhythm and melody, stimulating our cognitive abilities. This can improve our focus and concentration, making us more alert and attentive.
  4. Neural Activation: When we hum, different areas of our brain become active. The auditory cortex processes the sound, while the motor cortex controls the muscles involved in humming. This coordinated activity stimulates our brain, promoting neural connectivity and enhancing brain function.
  5. Heart and Breathing Benefits: Humming involves controlled breathing, which activates our parasympathetic nervous system. This helps slow down our heart rate, lower blood pressure, and induce a state of relaxation. It can also improve our breathing patterns and increase oxygen flow throughout the body.
  6. Social Connection: Humming is often done in groups or during shared activities like singing or cultural traditions. This social bonding enhances our sense of connection, belonging, and overall well-being. It can foster positive relationships and create a sense of community.

Remember, humming is a simple yet powerful way to positively impact our brain and body. It can reduce stress, improve mood, boost focus, and promote relaxation. So next time you feel the urge to hum, go ahead and embrace the benefits it offers.

The psychological benefits of humming

Humming is a simple and enjoyable activity that can offer various psychological benefits. Let’s explore these benefits in a simple and professional manner:

  1. Reduces Stress: Humming has a calming effect on the mind and body. When you hum, it helps activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes relaxation and reduces stress levels. It can help soothe the mind and alleviate feelings of anxiety and tension.
  2. Enhances Mood: Humming triggers the release of endorphins, which are natural mood-boosting chemicals in the brain. This can lead to an uplifted mood and a sense of well-being. Humming can also stimulate the production of oxytocin, a hormone associated with social bonding and happiness.
  3. Improves Focus and Concentration: Engaging in humming can enhance your ability to concentrate and stay focused. The rhythmic nature of humming helps create a mental anchor, allowing you to stay present and centered. This can be particularly beneficial during tasks that require sustained attention.
  4. Promotes Mindfulness: Humming can serve as a mindfulness practice. By focusing on the sound and vibration of your humming, you can bring your attention to the present moment and cultivate a sense of mindfulness. This can help quiet the mind, reduce racing thoughts, and increase overall awareness.
  5. Relieves Symptoms of Depression: Humming can be beneficial for individuals experiencing symptoms of depression. It acts as a natural antidepressant by increasing the release of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays a crucial role in mood regulation. Humming may help uplift the spirits and alleviate some depressive symptoms.
  6. Enhances Resilience to Negative Emotions: Engaging in humming can provide a healthy outlet for emotional expression. It allows you to channel and release negative emotions in a non-destructive manner. Humming can help you process and cope with difficult emotions, enabling you to build resilience and emotional well-being.

Remember, the psychological benefits of humming can vary from person to person, and it may not be a substitute for professional help when dealing with mental health concerns. However, incorporating humming into your daily routine can be a simple and effective way to support your overall psychological well-being.

The therapeutic benefits of humming for mental health

why do people hum

Humming offers various therapeutic benefits for mental health. Let’s explore these benefits:

  1. Stress Reduction: Humming activates the relaxation response in the body, reducing the production of stress hormones such as cortisol. This helps lower stress levels, promoting a sense of calmness and relaxation. Humming can be particularly useful in managing chronic stress and its negative impact on mental health.
  2. Regulation of Emotions: Humming engages the vagus nerve, which plays a crucial role in regulating emotions. By stimulating this nerve, humming can help regulate emotional responses, making it an effective tool for managing anxiety, anger, and other intense emotions. It can assist in achieving emotional balance and stability.
  3. Anxiety and Panic Management: Humming activates the parasympathetic nervous system, triggering the relaxation response and reducing symptoms of anxiety and panic. It can help slow down a racing heart rate, ease shallow breathing, and promote a sense of grounding during moments of heightened anxiety or panic.
  4. Mindfulness and Meditation Aid: Humming serves as an anchor for mindfulness and meditation practices. Focusing on the sound and vibration of the humming helps bring attention to the present moment, enhancing mindfulness and deepening meditation experiences. It can help quiet the mind, increase self-awareness, and promote a sense of inner peace.
  5. Mood Enhancement: Humming stimulates the release of endorphins, which are natural mood-boosting chemicals in the brain. Regular humming can uplift mood, increase feelings of happiness, and provide a sense of well-being. It can be a helpful adjunctive therapy for individuals with depression or mood disorders.
  6. Self-Soothing and Relaxation: Humming creates soothing vibrations within the body, offering a self-soothing mechanism during times of distress or discomfort. It can help individuals relax, unwind, and find comfort, especially when dealing with overwhelming emotions or difficult situations.
  7. Vocal and Expressive Therapy: Humming engages the vocal cords and encourages vocalization. This can be beneficial for individuals who find it challenging to express their emotions verbally. Humming allows for the nonverbal expression of emotions, providing a therapeutic outlet for self-expression, creativity, and release.

It’s important to note that while humming can be beneficial for mental health, it is not a substitute for professional mental health treatment. If you’re experiencing significant mental health challenges, it’s advisable to seek support from a qualified healthcare professional or therapist.

The connection between humming and meditation

Humming and meditation share a connection in various contemplative practices and spiritual traditions. Humming can be used as a technique to enhance the meditative experience and promote relaxation and focus.

Here are a few ways in which humming relates to meditation:

  1. Sound and vibration: Humming produces a gentle, soothing sound and vibration that can help calm the mind and body. In meditation, the sound is often used as a focal point to anchor attention and promote mindfulness. The rhythmic humming sound can serve as a point of concentration, allowing practitioners to deepen their focus and enter a meditative state.
  2. Breathing and resonance: Humming involves controlled exhalation through the vocal cords, which engages the diaphragm and promotes deep, conscious breathing. Deep breathing techniques are commonly used in meditation to relax the body and quiet the mind. By humming while focusing on their breath, individuals can enhance their awareness of the present moment and cultivate a sense of inner peace.
  3. Mantra meditation: Humming can be combined with mantra meditation, where a specific word, sound, or phrase is repeated silently or aloud. Mantras are often chanted or hummed to facilitate concentration and spiritual connection. The vibrational quality of humming can deepen the impact of the mantra, helping to create a meditative state and heighten awareness.
  4. Chanting and devotional practices: In many spiritual traditions, chanting and devotional singing are integral parts of meditation and prayer. Humming can be considered a form of vocalization and can be used to express devotion and connect with the divine. By humming sacred chants or melodies, individuals can enter a state of focused attention and experience a sense of inner tranquility.
  5. Body-mind integration: Humming engages both the body and the mind, fostering a connection between the two. In meditation, the aim is often to bring about a state of harmony and integration between body, mind, and spirit. Humming can serve as a bridge between the physical and mental aspects of the self, helping to cultivate a sense of unity and deep relaxation.

It’s important to note that the specific practices and techniques involving humming and meditation may vary across different cultures and traditions. It’s always recommended to learn from experienced practitioners or seek guidance from a qualified meditation teacher when exploring these practices.

How humming can improve vocal and breathing control

Humming can indeed help improve vocal and breathing control. Here are a few ways in which humming can be beneficial in developing these skills:

  1. Diaphragmatic breathing: Humming requires controlled exhalation, which engages the diaphragm—the primary muscle responsible for breathing. By practicing humming regularly, you can strengthen and train the diaphragm, promoting a deeper and more controlled breathing pattern. This type of breathing, known as diaphragmatic or belly breathing, can improve vocal support and enhance overall breath control.
  2. Vocal resonance: When you hum, the sound vibrations resonate in your vocal tract, including your throat, mouth, and nasal cavity. This resonance creates a fuller and more vibrant vocal tone. Regular humming exercises can help you develop a greater awareness of vocal resonance and encourage the use of resonating spaces effectively. This, in turn, can improve vocal projection, clarity, and control.
  3. Vocal warm-up: Humming is often used as a warm-up exercise for singers and public speakers. It helps to gently awaken and engage the vocal mechanism before more demanding vocal tasks. Humming before singing or speaking can help relax the vocal folds, increase blood circulation in the vocal folds, and prepare the voice for better vocal production. It can also alleviate tension and strain in the vocal muscles, allowing for smoother vocalization.
  4. Pitch accuracy and control: Humming can be an effective tool for developing pitch accuracy and control. When you hum, you can focus on producing a steady and consistent pitch. By practicing humming exercises that involve ascending and descending pitch patterns, you can train your ear to recognize and reproduce different pitches accurately. This, in turn, can improve your overall pitch control when singing or speaking.
  5. Vocal relaxation and mindfulness: Humming has a calming and relaxing effect on the body and mind. By engaging in humming exercises as part of a vocal practice or warm-up routine, you can reduce tension and stress in the vocal apparatus. Relaxed vocal muscles allow for greater flexibility and control. Additionally, humming can promote mindfulness and present-moment awareness, helping you become more attuned to your breath, voice, and vocal sensations.

Remember that consistent and focused practice is essential to experience improvements in vocal and breathing control. If you’re specifically interested in developing your vocal skills, working with a vocal coach or voice instructor can provide personalized guidance and exercises to help you achieve your goals.

The role of humming in religious and spiritual practices

Humming plays a significant role in various religious and spiritual practices around the world. It is often used as a form of expression, devotion, and connection to the divine.

Here are a few ways in which humming is incorporated into religious and spiritual traditions:

  1. Chanting and mantras: Chanting is a prevalent practice in many religious traditions. Humming can be a form of chanting, where specific words, phrases, or sacred sounds are repeated rhythmically. The act of humming these chants or mantras is believed to create a vibrational resonance that helps practitioners focus their minds, cultivate inner peace, and establish a connection with the divine.
  2. Devotional singing: Humming is commonly employed in devotional singing or bhajan/kirtan sessions. It allows participants to express their love, reverence, and devotion to their chosen deity or spiritual path. Humming melodies or hymns during group or individual sessions can induce a meditative state, promote unity among participants, and create a sense of spiritual upliftment.
  3. Sound healing: In certain spiritual practices, humming is used as a tool for healing and balancing the body, mind, and spirit. The vibrations generated by humming are believed to have a therapeutic effect on the energetic and physical aspects of the self. Practitioners may hum specific tones or frequencies with the intention of restoring harmony and promoting well-being.
  4. Meditation and mindfulness: Humming can be integrated into meditation and mindfulness practices to enhance focus, relaxation, and spiritual connection. The rhythmic and soothing nature of humming helps quiet the mind, promotes deep breathing, and fosters a sense of inner peace. By incorporating humming into meditation techniques, individuals can deepen their contemplative experience and heighten their awareness of the present moment.
  5. Rituals and ceremonies: Humming often accompanies various religious rituals and ceremonies. It serves as a way to create an atmosphere of reverence, sanctity, and sacredness. Humming can be performed during prayer, offerings, or ritualistic processes to invoke spiritual presence, invite blessings, and create a space conducive to worship or spiritual communion.
  6. Sacred music and hymns: Humming is frequently utilized in the performance of sacred music and hymns. In religious gatherings or services, individuals may hum along with choirs or musicians as a way to participate and engage in the musical expressions of their faith. Humming sacred melodies allows practitioners to embody the spiritual essence and emotional depth of the music.

It’s important to note that the specific practices and interpretations of humming in religious and spiritual contexts may vary across cultures and belief systems. The significance of humming is often deeply rooted in the traditions and teachings of a particular faith or spiritual path.

The use of humming in music therapy

Humming plays a valuable role in music therapy, a discipline that utilizes music to address the physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals. Here are some ways in which humming is utilized in music therapy:

  1. Vocal exploration and expression: Humming allows individuals to explore their vocal capabilities and express themselves non-verbally. It can be particularly beneficial for those who may feel hesitant or uncomfortable singing with words. Humming can help individuals establish a connection with their own voice, release emotions, and communicate in a unique and personal way.
  2. Relaxation and stress reduction: Humming is a soothing activity that promotes relaxation and stress reduction. It engages the breath, encourages deep diaphragmatic breathing, and activates the body’s relaxation response. Music therapists often incorporate humming into relaxation exercises or guided imagery sessions to help individuals find a sense of calm and inner peace.
  3. Vocalization and breath control: Humming can assist in improving vocalization and breath control. It encourages individuals to focus on their breath and engage the vocal cords, allowing for the development of vocal strength, control, and resonance. Music therapists may guide clients in humming exercises to support vocal rehabilitation, enhance speech production, and address specific vocal challenges.
  4. Improvisation and musical interaction: Humming is often used as a form of vocal improvisation in music therapy sessions. It provides individuals with an opportunity to create melodies, harmonies, and rhythms without the need for words. Humming can facilitate musical interaction between the therapist and client, as well as in group settings, fostering communication, connection, and creativity.
  5. Memory and cognitive stimulation: Humming familiar melodies can be utilized in music therapy to stimulate memory and cognition. Humming well-known songs or tunes from the past can evoke memories, promote reminiscence, and encourage engagement in cognitive exercises. It can also serve as a mnemonic device to support memory recall and improve cognitive functioning.
  6. Emotional expression and catharsis: Humming can be an effective way to express and process emotions. It provides an outlet for emotional release and catharsis, particularly when words may be difficult to find. Music therapists may encourage clients to hum melodies that reflect their current emotional state, allowing them to explore and express their feelings within a safe and supportive therapeutic environment.

Overall, humming in music therapy offers a versatile and accessible means of engaging with music, promoting self-expression, relaxation, vocal development, and emotional well-being. Music therapists tailor humming activities to the unique needs and goals of each client, utilizing their therapeutic potential to enhance their overall quality of life.

The differences between humming and singing

Humming and singing are both vocal activities, but they differ in several key aspects:

  1. Production of sound: When humming, the lips are closed or slightly parted, and the sound is created by the vibration of the vocal cords without the involvement of the articulators (such as the tongue, lips, and teeth). In contrast, singing involves the intentional manipulation of the articulators to produce specific pitches, phonemes, and words.
  2. Use of words and lyrics: Humming is typically a non-verbal activity, with no specific words or lyrics involved. It is characterized by sustained vocalizations of tones or melodies without the use of recognizable language. Singing, on the other hand, often incorporates words and lyrics to convey meaning, tell a story, or communicate emotions.
  3. Melodic range and expression: Humming tends to have a more limited melodic range compared to singing. While humming typically involves sustained pitches within a comfortable range, singing allows for a wider variety of pitches, dynamics, and expressive nuances. Singers can employ techniques such as vibrato, dynamic variations, and vocal ornaments to add depth and emotional expression to their performance.
  4. Vocal technique and control: Singing requires a greater level of vocal technique and control compared to humming. Singers learn and develop skills such as breath support, vocal resonance, pitch accuracy, and articulation. Singing encompasses various styles and genres, each with its own specific vocal techniques and demands. Humming, on the other hand, is generally more accessible and requires less technical proficiency.
  5. Performance and communication: Singing is often performed in a public or formal setting, whether on stage, in a choir, or as a soloist. It is a means of artistic expression and communication with an audience. Humming, although it can be shared in a group or therapeutic setting, is more commonly a personal activity used for relaxation, meditation, or self-expression.
  6. Cultural and social contexts: Singing holds a significant role in cultural traditions, rituals, and social gatherings. It is deeply ingrained in various musical traditions, ceremonies, celebrations, and community events across different cultures. Humming, while it can be present in certain cultural practices, is generally less prominent and more individually focused.

It’s important to note that these distinctions are not absolute and can vary depending on individual preferences, cultural contexts, and specific musical styles. Both humming and singing offer unique benefits and can be enjoyable forms of self-expression, artistic expression, and therapeutic engagement.

Why do some people hum more than others?

why do people hum

The frequency and tendency of humming can vary among individuals for several reasons, including personal preferences, habits, and underlying psychological or physiological factors.

Here are some possible explanations for why some people hum more than others:

  1. Musical inclination: Individuals with a strong musical inclination or a deep appreciation for music may find themselves humming more frequently. It can be a natural expression of their connection to melodies and rhythms.
  2. Emotional expression: Humming can serve as a form of emotional expression or self-soothing. Some people may hum to calm themselves down, relieve stress, or express joy or contentment. It can be a subconscious way of regulating emotions.
  3. Cognitive processing: Humming has been found to engage the brain’s auditory and motor regions, which can aid in cognitive processing and concentration. Some individuals may hum as a way to enhance focus, especially when performing tasks that require attention or creativity.
  4. Habitual behavior: Humming can become a habit for some individuals, often developed during childhood. People who have grown accustomed to humming as a coping mechanism or a way to occupy their minds may continue the habit into adulthood without even realizing it.
  5. Neurological or psychological factors: Certain neurological or psychological conditions may contribute to increased humming. For example, individuals with autism spectrum disorders or Tourette syndrome may exhibit repetitive vocalizations, including humming. In such cases, it may be a result of sensory processing differences or a coping mechanism.
  6. Cultural or social influence: Cultural and social factors can also play a role in the frequency of humming. In some cultures, humming or vocalizing during certain activities, such as while working or during religious rituals, is more common and accepted. Social environment and upbringing can shape individual humming tendencies.

It’s important to note that humming more or less frequently does not necessarily indicate anything negative or abnormal. It’s a personal behavior that can vary widely from person to person, reflecting individual differences and preferences.

Tips for incorporating humming into your daily routine

If you’re interested in incorporating humming into your daily routine, here are some tips to consider:

  1. Start with mindful listening: Before you begin humming, take a few moments to listen to your surroundings. Pay attention to the sounds around you, whether it’s nature, music, or ambient noise. This can help you connect with the auditory experience and set the mood for humming.
  2. Choose a comfortable environment: Find a quiet and comfortable space where you feel relaxed and free to express yourself. It could be your living room, a park, or even a private corner in your workplace. Having a conducive environment can enhance your humming experience.
  3. Experiment with different melodies: Explore various melodies and tunes that resonate with you. You can hum a song you like, create your own melody, or even improvise based on the current mood or emotions. Don’t be afraid to experiment and let your humming flow naturally.
  4. Incorporate humming during activities: Find opportunities to hum during your daily activities. For example, you can hum while cooking, cleaning, gardening, or taking a walk. This can add a pleasant and calming element to your routine, making it more enjoyable.
  5. Use humming as a relaxation technique: If you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, take a break, close your eyes, and focus on your breath. Then, start humming softly and gradually increase the volume and intensity. Pay attention to the vibrations and sensations in your body. This can serve as a relaxation technique and help you unwind.
  6. Hum with others: Humming can be a communal experience. Consider joining a singing group, choir, or music class where you can hum along with others. Sharing this activity with like-minded individuals can enhance enjoyment and create a sense of connection.
  7. Incorporate humming into your meditation or mindfulness practice: If you practice meditation or mindfulness, you can incorporate humming as a way to deepen your experience. Combine your breathing exercises with humming, allowing the vibrations and sound to create a more immersive and focused state of awareness.

Remember, humming is a personal expression, and there are no strict rules or expectations. The goal is to find joy, relaxation, and self-expression through this simple act. Embrace your unique humming style and let it become a positive and enriching part of your daily routine.



If you need to know the answer to why do people hum, then we have all you need on this page. People hum for various reasons, including their musical inclination, emotional expression, cognitive processing, habits, neurological or psychological factors, and cultural or social influences.

It can be a means of personal enjoyment, relaxation, self-expression, or a way to cope with stress. Whether it’s a conscious choice or an unconscious habit, humming reflects the diverse nature of human behavior and individual preferences.