Soundtrack of strength: How music helps with healing

Music has a way of evoking emotions and making us feel. It’s tied to memories and moments in our lives. It speaks to us in ways daily conversations often aren’t able to. When you battle a chronic illness, music serves as a coping tool, an uplifting way to feel empowered and anatalie-runningt peace.

I’ve been a big fan of music my whole life—and throughout my battle with Crohn’s disease these last 11-plus years there have been moments when it’s helped motivate me to be brave in the face of the unknown.

When I think back to my initial diagnosis and hospital stay in July 2005 I can vividly remember clutching my iPod and rocking back and forth on the toilet as I endured colonoscopy prep while experiencing a terrible flare up. For people who complain about going through the prep as a “healthy” person—imagine going through that experience while your intestines are inflamed and your body is already fighting against you while tethered to an IV pole with multiple medications running through you. I remember my frail, weak body draped in a hospital gown… shaking like a leaf on the toilet in pain and disbelief of my new reality. Music helped distract me and get me through in that moment. Days later when my potassium levels plummeted and I needed potassium in my IV, the pain was unbearable. I felt like fire was going through my veins. As I gripped my arms and tears were streaming down my face with family members looking on, I again had to put my headphones on to try and escape.

Music therapy—whether you just listen to songs that calm you or give you strength or seek professional help, is known to have a dramatic effect at optimizing all major systems of the body, because it counteracts our stress responses so well. I’ve read that music therapy helps cancer patients deal with nausea and vomiting. It’s that powerful. When in pain, music even has the ability to ease the intensity of what you are feeling. While no one knows all the ways music can benefit the body, studies have shown that music can affect brain waves, brain circulation, and stress hormones. Some songs may help you calm down when you’re feeling anxious, others may be for celebratory moments, while others help put everything in perspective and ground you.

Here are some of my fav’s…

Comeback Kid—The Band Perry

Scars to your beautiful—Alessia Cara

Fight Song—Rachel Platten

This Is Why I Need You—Jesse Ruben

Keep Breathing—Ingrid Michaelson

 I Lived—One Republic

Resolution—Jack’s Mannequin

Around the World—Kings of Leon

Collide—Howie Day

Stacks—Bon Iver

Dog Days are Over—Florence + The Machine

Falling Faster-Andrew Ripp

Believe—Mumford & Sons

Sweetest Devotion—Adele

H.O.L.Y—Florida Georgia Line (my song for my baby boy, due April 1!)

I’d love to hear what songs speak to you as you deal with the unknown events life throws your way. It’s always nice to have an arsenal of songs ready to go. My all-time favorite go-to when I’m in the hospital is the song “Swim” by Jack’s Mannequin. No matter how many years go by, when I’m enduring a flare and hear this song I can never fight back the tears. The words not only make me feel like I can take on anything, but also remind me of my cousin Bill’s courageous wait for a heart and kidney transplant in 2009. I remind myself if he did it, I certainly can. Bill’s nurses would write on his dry erase board “keep swimming” as he waited for the gift of life. The song has been a source of strength for our family ever since. Whenever anyone is going through a difficult time—I always share those two words, because all we all can do is “keep swimming.”

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