We all hear about vocal health, vocal rest, proper technique.

But what about your overall health?

Is this something you have been ignoring?

Is it something you are beginning to worry about?

In this episode, John looks at his own health journey and what it has meant to him as a teacher and content creator.

Better health does indeed equal better singing.

Episode Transcription

Episode 46 – Your Health and Singing

Hey, this is John Henny. Welcome back to another episode of Intelligent Vocalist.

Alright, today I want to talk, not really about vocal health, but your health in general.

You know, those of us in the Art and in teaching, it’s very easy to become over-busy, over-consumed with what we do, over-scheduled. And very often, our health takes a bit of a back seat. Whether it’s really thinking about what we’re eating, or taking the time for exercise, or getting proper sleep, or downtime allowing the mind chill out. We get these rushes of work and we get these intensely busy periods. I will share a story.

I recently found out that someone I know – used to know quite well – but someone I know had a stroke. And this person is the same age as me, pretty much the same weight I was last year. And it’s just, one of those things that’s just kind of really knocks you in the head, and makes you really realize that you dodge a bullet. And I’m just so incredibly thankful and grateful that I was able to find people to help me on my path to health. But what’s really scary is how I let my health go, and how easy it was, and how it just happened imperceptibly a little bit every day. When I was a performer, there is some, I would say, expectations placed upon you. And you need to look a certain way. It’s just the way it is. I’m not trying to body shame anyone, but when you’re on stage people want to see kind of an idealized version, you know. Performers are kind of idealized versions of the general public.

And so, I stayed in pretty good shape. I’d also run a lot which kept me somewhat in shape. But then, when I started teaching a lot and just long long days behind the piano, and – you’d finish the day and you’re just overtired – and food became my reward. And it just started to pile on, the weight started to pile on, and it happened over years. There did hit a point where I thought, “Man, I’ve got to do something about this.”

But, food will get a hold of you. And the food that is manufactured today and that is put out there today is not anything that we, as human beings, have encountered in our existence on Earth, in our evolution. The last 50 or 60 years of food is just mind boggling in what the industry has done, and what they served up to hijack your taste buds and your brain and your willpower. They literally create this stuff in science labs, and they figure out what is the magic ratio of sugar, salt, and fat, because they want to addict you. I don’t know if addiction is the proper word. Some people may use “habituate you”, maybe a little milder, a little more correct. But it becomes habit. And those foods become, they’re hyperpalitable –that’s tricky to say. They’re very easy to eat. They spiked you to want more. And they’re just loaded calories. The caloric content is mind-blowing, and you can consume so many calories before you even begin to think that you’ve had enough. And this is the trap that I fell into.

And as I got heavier and heavier, then it just became something that I felt really trapped in, and almost began to resign my fate to being overweight. And just looking for small things like, “well, my knees don’t really hurt yet” or “this numbness in my hand may go away” or “yeah, I guess I get on high blood pressure medication.” And that was the part where I finally realized and said, “wait, enough.”

So, what I’m saying is, you know, vocal health is incredibly important. We need proper sleep, we need to get vocal rest, we need to make watch where we’re yelling or where we’re using our voice environments, proper singing technique. All of these things are very very important. But if you’re not taking care of your body, if you’re not eating foods that nourish your body and that give you the best health, it’s kind of hard to expect the instrument to function at its best. Considering that it is indeed human flesh and tissue. I mean, it’s human tissue and it is going to react to what you put in it.

So there’s the food component. And there is also the overall health component, staying fit, getting exercise, getting enough sleep. All of these things are vitally vitally important. And one thing I found in taking better care of myself is that my mood, energy, focus, productivity, it all goes up. It’s all affected. And all of this is vitally important. You need to know where your limits are. You need to set aside times for work and not work. I’ve talked about it in podcast before about giving your brain a break, and setting aside your smart phone and different things in the evening and allowing the brain to calm down and not become addicted to this constant stimulus. Between that and modern food and the fact that we’re constantly in illumination and lights and stimulus, all of these are things that we did not evolved with, and they do take their toll.

So what I wish for you is just a level of health and happiness, and taking care of yourself, and allowing yourself to put yourself first. You know, if you do find yourself in an unhealthy state right now, the bottom line is to get healthy. It is an act of being self-absorbed.  You’re going to have to put yourself first. You’re going to have to stop caring as much about others, and care about yourself. It’s the old idea of when the plane having trouble, you put the oxygen mask on yourself first so you can then help others. You need to take care of yourself first so that you can help others. By taking care of yourself, you’re going to be a better artist, you’re going to be a better creator, you’re going to be a better teacher, you’re going to be a better partner, a better parent.

I know it’s hard when you’re in it, and you just kind of feel helpless, and you feel like willpower is a struggle, all of these things. But just getting healthy, and, somebody once said, it’s kind of a binary decision. It’s either on or off. And I found that with me, myself. And when I finally made the decision to get healthy, it was binary. It was “No. This is it. That’s it.” And that’s what kept me going. And I think I may do a podcast in the future that really goes into the process of how I lost weight, everything around it, and how it affected myself and my voice, etc.

But, I had a mantra that I would say every day. And what I would say was, “Today means nothing, today means everything.” And what that meant was, today means nothing. If I ever have a craving today, or if I’m hungry today, or if I’m a little grumpy, it will pass. It’s not that big of a deal. One tiny blip in my lifetime. But today means everything. Because if I give in to that, I will undo and potentially derail everything that I’ve been working for. Today is absolutely essential in that unbroken chain of building my health. And I would say that to myself every day, multiple times a day. “Today means nothing, today means everything.”

I think, if you can find your own kind of mantra, your own way to refocus yourself, and get on that path to health. If you are healthy, fantastic! Don’t sabotage it. Don’t give up your health. I used to be healthy, then I kind of started allowing myself to eat a little bit of crap, and that builds more, and the next thing I knew I was spiraling down. I don’t wish that for anybody. I really really wish you good health. And it’s not just a lifespan – because if you get healthy chances are you will live longer – but it really is about health span. It’s just having quality of life every day. And there’s nothing worth giving that up for. If you stay focused on your health, you’re going to do better. You’re going to be, again, a better teacher, a better partner, a better artist.

So there ends my sermon, I’ll get off my soft box.

Hey, I want to thank you for listening today. If you’re interested in what I do, go to JohnHenny.com J-O-H-N-H-E-N-N-Y. I don’t do as much teaching these days but, if you think we might be good fit to work together, I always like working with new, committed, energetic students. So you can just go ahead and click on the LESSONS tab there, and get some information. I’ve also got some courses on there that may interest you. Otherwise, until next time. To better singing! Thank you so much! Bye.