whistle, happy, music therapy, karyn shanks, karyn shanks md

Whistle While You Work

The secret to a happy life you ask?

Ah, yes, I have one of the answers.


Seriously. Whistle!

I come from a family of beautiful whistlers—my mom (a song bird!), her dad, me, and my oldest son. My mom taught me to whistle when I was a wee girl and I remember the immense pride I felt when I finally got it! And I’ve been whistling pretty much non-stop every since (apologies to my non-whistling family and friends!).

My house frequently resonates with my son’s and my high vibratos—he or I will start a song from one end of the house and pretty soon the other one, wherever they are, jumps in to harmonize or complete the tune.

I whistle when I’m happy and I find that when I whistle, I get happy.

And when I hear my kids whistle, my heart glows as I’m reassured that they’re feeling happy and carefree. Love the whistling I hear from the shower!

I couldn’t find science addressing the health benefits of whistling to justify my beliefs about it, but I’m quite sure it would be astounding! Perhaps like the science of singing—which boasts deep changes in the brain and beautiful transformations of mood, cognition, stress levels, and how one views the world.

But there’s something special about whistling (and whistlers!). Those pure tones. The trills. The simplicity. The improvisations. The harmonies. The lack of words. And, it’s the language of birds!

We can use our voices to make us happy in a reverse-mind-engineering sort of way. You know, how when we use happy behavior to create the emotion—like smiling, holding our heads high, skipping, playing with our pets or children, or power poses.

I find whistling works every time.

So, we can take to heart the advice of the great twentieth century teacher, Snow White, who urged the Seven Dwarfs to whistle while they work:

Just whistle while you work

And cheerfully together we can tidy up the place

So hum a merry tune

It won’t take long when there’s a song to help you set the pace


And as you sweep the room

Imagine that the broom

Is someone that you love

And soon you’ll find you’re dancing to the tune.


When hearts are high the time will fly

So whistle while you work.

So whistle while you work…

And have a happy, Beautiful day!


p.s. From my Archives:

Gratitude: The Decision to Be Happy. 2016.

Anxiety Reboot in Thirty Seconds. 2016.

Looking for a group of like-minded, truth-seeking souls to share self-care strategies in support of your healing life? Come join our Grit and Grace exclusive Facebook community.

Karyn Shanks MD


Karyn Shanks, MD, is a physician who lives and practices in Iowa City. Her work is inspired by the revolutionary science of Functional Medicine, body-mind wisdom, and the transformational journeys of thousands of clients over her twenty-eight year career. She believes that the bones of healing are in what we do for ourselves.

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