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Elmo says humming is good for your mental health in new 'Sesame Street' PSA. Here's what experts say.

Elmo on 'Sesame Street'
The beloved Sesame Street character Elmo is a fan of humming. (Nathan Congleton/NBC via Getty Images)

Elmo established himself as a mental health advocate when he took to X, formerly Twitter, two months ago to ask his followers, “How is everybody doing?” The simple question received a resounding response from people sharing their emotional woes with the fan-favorite Sesame Street character (who, in turn, reminded everyone that it’s important to check in on friends. Now, he’s offering another solution to those who seem stressed out: humming.

It’s an activity that Elmo and his friends perform in a public service announcement video released on Thursday. In it, the beloved puppet says that humming a song helps him when he experiences “a big feeling, like being frustrated.” The advice comes as part of an emotional well-being series that Sesame Street’s global impact nonprofit, Sesame Workshop, is working on in collaboration with the Ad Council and Huntsman Mental Health Institute's “Love, Your Mind” campaign.

“To many people who grew up watching Sesame Street, Elmo and his friends provide a safe space where it’s more like they are longtime friends who are good at listening, hearing and seeing you as you are,” Samantha Maltin, executive vice president and chief marketing and brand officer for Sesame Workshop, tells Yahoo Life. “Emotional well-being and mental health are more important than ever, and we are here to support families wherever they are.”

While young viewers are expected to benefit from adding humming to their mental health toolkit, the team behind the new PSA says caregivers could do the same. Here, experts explain why.

What are the benefits of humming?

Humming has several benefits, according to Jenny Woo, emotional intelligence researcher, founder and CEO of Mind Brain Emotion and author of 52 Essential Coping Skills. “Humming acts like a natural stress reliever," Woo tells Yahoo Life. "When we hum, the vibrations we generate stimulate the vagus nerve, one of the key players in our body's relaxation response. This can lead to a lower heart rate and blood pressure and help us to calm our body and mind. Humming was also found to lower our stress index and improve heart rate variability, which benefits overall cardiovascular health.”

Humming can also boost the release of nitric oxide, which helps to enhance blood flow. Woo points to studies that say this can improve concentration and memory when blood flows more efficiently to the brain.

"The essence of its effectiveness lies in being mindful and consistent with your approach. When you hum, feel the vibrations in your body and focus on the sound," Woo says. "This sensory awareness shifts attention away from stressors, reducing anxiety. You can experiment with different pitches and lengths of humming to find what works best for you. It's not just about the sound; it's also about how it resonates within you, creating a sense of inner balance and tranquility."

Why humming?

“Humming is beautifully simple and doesn’t require special techniques,” says Woo. It’s also something that children are likely already doing.

If not, integrating it into their routine is an easy task, according to Maitri Vaidya, a meditation instructor and health care executive at Zesa Wellness. “A simple initiation involves picking your favorite song and humming along to it, feeling the vibrations across your body," she tells Yahoo Life. "Supplementing this with deep breathing amplifies stress reduction, providing instant relief.”

It’s also something that can be done at any age. “It’s an old-age technique that can be embraced by both children and adults, fostering familial engagement,” says Vaidya.

Dr. Amanda Fujiki, an expert in child and adolescent psychiatry at the Huntsman Mental Health Institute, tells Yahoo Life that that’s a vital part of the initiative. “We know that children model the behaviors of the adults in their lives,” she says. “When adults can identify and express emotions in a healthy way, kids will notice and will model these behaviors. And there is now research to show that mindfulness practices have positive influences for children and adults.”

Given the national emergency in child and adolescent mental health declared by leading medical associations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, back in 2021, experts say it's important to learn about coping tools early on.

“It's never too early to start conversations with children about emotion identification and expression," says Fujiki. "It’s important to have developmentally appropriate conversations with our kids about emotional well-being. When we start these conversations early, we can provide children with the tools and resources that will help them navigate the range of emotions they are currently experiencing and foster their ability to navigate their experience as they grow.”