How to sing yourself happier: Don’t let isolation get you down. Try these surprising ways to keep positive and stay fit

How you are feeling — your mood — is influenced more by your relationships with other people than by changes in the brain. That’s why in these challenging times, when most of us aren’t seeing other people on a regular basis, maintaining a positive outlook is more important than ever.
We know that depression is a common emotional challenge that faces people aged 70 and upwards. In fact, people often say that ‘old age is depressing’.
Instead, what I’d like to do is focus on the ways in which, despite what is going on in your life and the challenges you are facing, you can take positive steps to minimise negative thought patterns.
Music can lift our mood — even against our will. It has always had great power to soothe, calm and comfort us.

There is something special about making your own music. It doesn’t matter if you never learned how to play an instrument or how to sing, you have your own: your voice.
Give it all you’ve got. Sing in the shower, when cooking a meal or doing chores around the house.
There’s a huge body of evidence that singing has a wide range of benefits. For a start, when you sing, you breathe in a different way, which uses more of your total lung volume. This, in turn, improves oxygenation of the blood, making you more alert.
Some osteopaths have been known to suggest patients join a choir, as singing helps to open up the diaphragm and forces the body to relax.
Stretching boosts the brain
To help your body and your brain, try yoga or light cardio exercises.  Look for classes online, either in real time or videos.

In fact, all types of exercise are good for the mind and actually increase the size of the brain. But the above forms are particularly good because many people find their spiritual dimension helpful.
In some ways, they are close to mindfulness and combine the benefits of that with those of the stretching exercises we have recommended as part of your daily fitness plan.
Another good habit is to help positive thoughts stay in your memory — they’re better than negative ones! Before you go to sleep, avoid your phone and grab a notebook or diary instead. Think back over the day and pick out one or two things you have enjoyed, however small. Write them down.

Then look ahead to tomorrow. Choose one small thing that you would like to do. The key is to choose something achievable, such as pruning a particular rose or phoning a friend you haven’t spoken to for a while. Write this down. In the morning, before you look at any personal ‘to do’ list you have, take a look at your chosen small enjoyment for the day — and do it.
If you spend time regretting the past or worrying about the future, that’s unlikely to improve your happiness and mental health.
While becoming more physically active is one of the routes you can take — as this will leave you less time to dwell on things — the health service is increasingly offering a technique specifically designed to help you focus on the present. It is called mindfulness.
A doctor will sometimes now refer a person who is depressed to a mindfulness group instead of prescribing a drug.