Whistle Away Your Worries: Benefits of Whistling

Whistling Past and Present

As I walk down the street, I often attract stares of disbelief from the people who pass by. Now, the last time I looked in the mirror I didn’t have two heads, or even one bald and tattooed one, I don’t dress outlandishly, I don’t smell like a skunk, and I am in all other ways, a perfectly normal person in appearance and disposition, so why the surprised stares? It’s simple. I do something which is almost as rare today as hens’ teeth. I whistle.

I acquired the habit of pursing my lips and emitting the shrill warbling-like sound many years ago. All of the men in my family are accomplished whistlers, and so I grew up with it. My grandfather used to whistle when he had nothing to say (usually the same tune every time, god bless him). My father was a semi-professional musician who used to whistle on stage as well as sing and play the harmonica. He elevated whistling to an art form.

But whistling has become a rare sound these days. No-one whistles walking down the street anymore, and hardly anyone whistles at work. This is a shame, as there are many benefits to be gained from it.

I have it from a reliable source that pubic school boys in England used to be obliged to whistle in the showers every morning. Apparently it is not possible to hold an erotic thought whilst whistling and so whistling was used to curb masturbation, and therefore, as the old wives tale goes, also helped to prevent blindness in schoolboys with an overactive libido. Perhaps they were also told to whistle themselves to sleep in bed at night?

In old movies, especially black and white ones, it was common to see men whistling, but not anymore. The more mature reader will no doubt remember snow white and the seven dwarfs and “whistle while you work” scene. But now it seems that whistling just like the act of smoking cigarettes has been banished from the silver screen, probably never to reappear.

Strange that, because it is well known that whistling is a pick-me-up and promotes feelings of happiness. It is impossible to be miserable and depressed whilst whistling. Try it and see. In this respect it has the same effect as smiling. Put a broad smile on your face then try to be depressed. You can’t. The two simply don’t go together.

In Praise of the Benefits of Whistling

So why has the habit of whistling died out? Is the tendency to whistle hereditary? Passed down in the genes, unknowingly, from father to son? Or does it have a national or regional significance? Was it just a fashion? Or is it perhaps class dependent? Working classes whistle whereas middle and upper classes don’t - and we're all at least middle class these days aren't we? It is certainly more prevalent amongst men than women, although some women do whistle as well.

I suppose that the advent of on-demand music helped toll the death knell for whistling, which was, with hindsight, the forerunner of today’s MP3 player or walkman. In the past you could whistle away to your favourite songs whereas now, you press shuffle-play on your iPod and hey presto, your music of choice is delivered instantly to your ears.

Is everybody able to whistle? Is it a universal human ability, or do you need to have as a minimum, at least some degree of musical ability? Are some people “whistle deaf” just as some people are tone deaf and therefore unable to differentiate between musical pitches and timbres? Perhaps I should instigate a survey to find out.

To me whistling just seems like a natural thing to do. I have always done it and probably always will, even if it does sometimes provoke a surprised reaction from passers-by. Perhaps the women passers-by think that my pursed lips when in whistling mode are in fact a suggestive sexual gesture; pursed so as to blow kisses at them. This would be an easy mistake to make, and would better explain their surprised reaction, especially if, due to traffic noise for example, they could not hear the dulcet tones emanating from my lips.

Personally, I think that whistling should be reintroduced and promoted on a national level by the health service. Doctors should put away the Prozac and other mood changing drugs and instead prescribe one hour of uninterrupted, wholehearted whistling each day. This would surely have the beneficial effect of reducing sadness and depression and promoting happiness throughout the nation.

Or then again, how about an International Whistling Day? One day in the year when everyone can whistle with complete abandon, safe in the knowledge that they will not be frowned upon or labeled as an oddball. Any supporters?

I am sure that there was less depression in the “good old days” when people used to whistle away their cares and woes, instead of seeking relief from the contents of a pill bottle. At least whistling doesn’t cost anything, nor does it have any harmful side effects. So it’s worth a try, don’t you think?


Copyright (c) 2009. All rights reserved.

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Comments 12 comments

maggs224 profile image

maggs224 3 years ago from Sunny Spain

Your hub brought back memories of my dad who was always whistling. One of my fondest memories is as a little girl, riding down to Dad's allotment in his wooden barrow, as he whistled softly almost under his breath.

Now I am wondering was he always whistling because he was happy, or was he happy because he was always whistling lol...

I enjoyed the Hub, voting up and hitting the relevant buttons on my way out.

lady whistler 4 years ago

I always try to whistle.. whatever tune that will come out...they asked if it is "boring whistle" or a "happy whistle"...whistling is good for the soul...

drake 5 years ago

i had to learn how to whistle on my own. took me forever to get to where i am now. but still i cant get the right note. all i can do is annoy people with high pitched sounds. its probably due to my slightly wide spaced teeth. but its still fun though

Good martinis/Bad martinis 6 years ago

I met this wonderful and stunning woman (who is the absolute total package inside and out) whom has reintroduced me to whistling. I called her out when I heard her whistling out of the blue and she matter of factly (not really a word but...) said she always does. A combination of cuteness and sexiness was on display as she whistled out her tune of choice. I have been whistling ever since- I'm hooked (not just on whistling but also on The Whistler;) What a great article and wonderful anecdote to picking oneself up in the day she has found in yours to driving it all home to me. Thank you.

Ben Ateed 6 years ago

I am constantly whistling, especially the past few years as my singing voice gets more unstable. I am amazed at the innate ability to think a melody and reproduce it perfectly immediately and every time. I've impressed on my kids that whistling is the most convienent musical instrument around ... and completley portable.

Norma 6 years ago

I found your hub because i was looking for something about whistling and health. I saw a bit on Huell Howser the other day about a champion whistler. It was really cool. I started making a point to whistle more and noticed it seems to be good for my breathing and makes my face hurt (good?).

anyway, check out #1703 "whistling champ" at huell's site if you're interested. http://www.calgold.com/visiting/

daytripeer 6 years ago

I never knew Whistler's mother, but, I married Whistler's daughter. My mother in law always whistled and for the most part, so do I. Good Hub. :-)

2uesday profile image

2uesday 7 years ago from - on the web, I am 2uesday.

Your hub made me realise that it is ages since I heard someone whistling a tune; I never thought about it before. Interesting hub. I am going to be thinking of the tune in Snow white now..."Whistle while you work".

sannyasinman profile image

sannyasinman 7 years ago Author

FP - Hmmm not sure why you can't whistle, but I'm sure that humming can be just as beneficial. :)

Feline Prophet profile image

Feline Prophet 7 years ago from India

I can't whistle...must be something to do with weak lungs! But I can hum...does that count? :)

sannyasinman profile image

sannyasinman 7 years ago Author

DF - we never can know what effect we are having with what we say, write and do. I'm so glad that this article was of help to you in some small way, and thanks for stopping by.

Dim Flaxenwick profile image

Dim Flaxenwick 7 years ago from Great Britain

Oh boy!!! Thank you for that timely pick-me-up.. Tomorrow it will be 13 years since my dad passed away and I can still hear him whistling great tunes every day of his life. I only wish I could manage it. I don't seem to be capable of whistling, but I'd support any "bring back whistling " campaign. Thanks for cheering me up.

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