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How Music Impacts My Mental Health



I have always believed in the healing power of music. Its ability to wisp me away from a gloomy day into a moment built by a beautiful memory. Instant and real. And, yet, that same grasp is capable of time travel from happy to sad. Instant and real. In my mind music is the one power that transcends time, space and memory.

Nothing holds music captive. It is free. It lives - no affirmation needed. It has the ability to lie dormant in a soul and then explode into existence at the perfect moment. Music is poetry put to song.


I believe in mantras. I purposely repeat phrases I want to remember over and over and over until they pop into my brain when needed like muscle memory. I have my favorite quotes all over my home so I see them daily. I have the quote, "Live Your Dash" on a sign that I see every day when I leave my home and return. (If you haven't read "The Dash" poem - pause and read it now and then come back. I think you already had this assignment if you have been following my posts. So, well, reread it again anyway.)


When I used to race I wrote motivational phrases on my little nutrition bags and my special needs bags. I had motivation written on my bike. I have motivation tattooed all over my body. Phrases like, "Courage to do what is right", "Undaunted by repeated setbacks", "Perseverance in the storm" and even my own motivational hashtag.


About 12 years ago I was listening to the radio on Mother's Day and they had callers share the phrases their "mother's used to always say." I wondered what phrase my daughter would say and so I asked her. She was about 7 at the time. I worried she would say, "hurry up" or some other annoying phrase. She said, "I love you. That is what you always say." (Insert huge heart emoji.)


After my heart, and head, returned to size I realized that I wanted to plant the phrases my daughter would one day say, "Well as my mom used to always say..." and so I started purposefully repeating certain phrases to her.

  • "Anything worth doing is worth doing well." (A simpler version of Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield's 'Whatever is worth doing at all, is worth doing well' that he wrote on 10 March 1746 and quoted in Letters to His Son on the Art of Becoming a Man of the World and a Gentleman (1774))

  • "If it were easy everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great." (Tom Hanks in 'A League of Their Own)

  • "I love you all the way to Jesus and back!" This one we have sign language for so we can say it to each other from across a distance and know what the other is thinking.

When I mentor others I remind them that "every time you say yes to something it means you say no to something else. Pick YOUR yes wisely." Typically this is during a session on boundaries. Another favorite from the book Boundaries by Drs. Cloud and Townsend is "No is a complete sentence."


Well, that was a long babble - what is the point? Good point. I should get to the point.


While I consider myself an expert on the value of positive words I have found myself choosing the wrong songs to play on "repeat". Gosh, I don't know why I put that in quotes. I am literally picking these songs on Spotify and selecting them to play on repeat over and over. Over and over. One more time. Play. Repeat.

In the past this was awesome. I did this when I trained for races because during those races you could not have any music and so if I trained with the motivational music I loved then when I raced I could press "play" in my brain and sing those songs to myself. In my head. Singing out loud is not one of my special skills.

Side note: during one race I messed up my special needs bags and left my bike nutrition out for the second half of the bike ride. Having the "Anna Kendrick - Cups (Pitch Perfect’s “When I’m Gone”)" available to sing to myself was helpful. It was right. I did miss that nutrition when it was gone.




But I have not been picking the motivational songs. I have been picking the sad ones. The ones that drive me deeper into depression with each repeat. Here are a few:

I realized the pain I was causing myself and I didn't care. Press repeat. Dig in deeper. Down for the count.


Now insert the value of having friends who are also struggling. They reach out and share that they were hit across the head by some song. I hear myself telling them to be careful of the songs they play on repeat. To one friend I typed it in a text, pressed send and then looked at my Spotify screen with pain, depression and misery on repeat. Do as I say...


So, I went to my playlist and decided today I would put some different songs on repeat. I chose my "Hope 2021" playlist:

Wow the difference in my mindset. For this 24 hours I added some more water to my glass. I found some hope. I found a tiny bit of that resilience chic and had her help the depressed chic out of her cave.


"You know I'm back like I never left Another sprint, another step Another day, another breath Been chasing dreams, but I never slept I got a new attitude and a lease on life And some peace of mind...

I heard you die twice, once when they bury you in the grave And the second time is the last time that somebody mentions your name So when I leave here on this earth, did I take more than I gave? Did I look out for the people or did I do it all for fame...

I feel glorious, glorious Got a chance to start again I was born for this, born for this It's who I am, how could I forget? I made it through the darkest part of the night And now I see the sunrise Now I feel glorious, glorious I feel glorious, glorious..." - "Glorious" by Macklemore


I suffer from severe childhood abuse, birth of a stillborn child and PTSD/Nightmare Disorder from a kidnapping, hostage and raping event that I endured in 2020. I have no guarantees on what the next 24 hours will hold for me but I am glad I chose to change the "repeat" today. Share with us how music has helped or harmed your mental health by commenting on this post, sharing on social media or emailing us at info@recoveryadvocatenetwork.org.



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