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How Learning the Art of Throat Singing Benefited My Mental Health

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About two years ago I was surfing Facebook and ran across a video of a Mongolian man performing on a mountain top.

His singing technique is used by people in Central Asia, particularly in Mongolia and Tuva. It is called Khoomei. A more common name for it is “throat singing.” An advanced throat singer can simultaneously sing two to four notes and/or musical sounds at one time. To put it simply, throat singers are Central Asian beat-boxers. And they are awesome ones at that!

As you may be aware, lots of creative people are diagnosed with anxiety and depression. I am one of them, and I love music, history and art. So, new and different things spark my fancy and turn my anxiety into healthy, happy energy. Well, after throat singing caught my interest, I become outright infatuated with it.

After a few months of listening to this type of music, I followed a few tutorials on YouTube in attempts to learn it. Learning this music style allows me to depart from the anxiety that has hindered my musical progress for many years. Being a high-strung perfectionist with a learning disability, there is a tendency to criticize myself for not doing things correctly. It is difficult to memorize fast songs and complex music scores. Plus, not being able to follow instructions very well is frustrating for all involved in the music group. So, I can’t keep up. Then I mess up. Then I give up. All of this negativity triggers anxiety attacks and ruins something that was meant to be fun.

And after a few frustrating attempts to learn throat singing I decided it was too difficult and no fun at all. But, rather than give up, I decided to change my learning style. It had to be more informal, relaxed and childlike. Take toddlers for example. They sit on the floor and play with toys that capture their interest and they are full of joy. They also make funny sound effects when they play. And most admirably, they are not self conscious. There is no way the toddler can perfect any of this. There is no reason to. They are learning in the most natural way: by having fun!

Practicing this learning technique has been of great benefit to my mental health. As we get older we are taught to do things right and to be conscious of our behavior. Taken to the extreme, we can lose are joy of learning and damage our self esteem. Knowing this, it is good to learn something fun that is impossible to perfect, like throat singing. Below are some links to resources about throat singing.

Originally published: September 3, 2016
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