Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Power of Song

Think positive.  It's been touted for years as the solution to almost every problem we face and I'm just sick of hearing it.  But the thing is, it works.   I don't think anyone would argue that being negative is a better position than being positive in one's thinking.   When I'm feeling positive about life I'm a happier person.  I'm more fun to be around.   I have more energy - or so it seems.  So the question becomes, how to achieve a positive mindset when you don't have one naturally.  When you wake up in pain, when you try to walk and stumble about, when your bladder just doesn't cooperate with your daily living, how does one remain positive?

One way for me is singing.  As a life long choral singer, I can't imagine a life without music.  But singing can work for anyone - you don't need to have a good voice.  You don't even need a decent voice; you just need to sing.  You can sing a happy song or you can sing the blues.  In fact, singing the blues makes me happy!  Just singing, out loud, alone in your house, or with friends in the car, or in a more formal ensemble setting, will make you feel better about life in general.   I defy anyone to be negative while singing.  Even if the effects are only momentary, it works.  Really - try it.

A theory I came up with is the breathing.  When you sing properly from your diaphragm, you are oxygenating your blood.   For those of us with MS this is quite helpful.  When I've finished a 2 hour rehearsal I leave feeling energized, not exhausted.  It's really very strange because almost any physical effort leaves me with numbing fatigue.  But not singing.   The joy of making music, the physical effort of breathing properly, the camaraderie with fellow choristers,  all give me such a positive feeling that lasts at least 24 hours.   And if it starts to fade, just start singing again!

Of course, there are other strategies to staying positive.  I keep a gratitude journal which I try to write in each night before bed, listing 5 things I'm grateful for.   Believe me, there are days when I can't think of a single thing - but as a wise meditation leader once told me, "When you can't think of anything, write that you are grateful for having five fingers on each hand and count that as 2 things."  (Note: This only applies to those who actually have 10 fingers - if not, use toes.)  The point is, there is always something to be grateful for.   Today I'm grateful that I had the discipline to sit down and add to this blog!  And always, I'm grateful for the power of song.


  1. In addition to all the positive things you said about the power of song, I might add the additional benefit of brain power. There is an excellent book, Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks, that I would recommend. Those of us with PD know the power of music. Many of us who can't walk can dance with music playing. Also we may not speak, but we can sing. Music is great brain food!

  2. Gail - I read that book about a year ago and it was wonderful. A little technical at times but I stuck with it and it was brilliant. I think Oliver Sacks is brilliant - his other books and research are amazing too. A facebook group I'm in just posted something about the connection between diaphragmatic breathing and jugular reflux which is a theory of the cause of MS symptoms. I'm going to ask permission to repost it here so check in the "Other Writings" section to see if it shows up - I think you'd be interested.