Survivor Music

Last week I wrote about how I listen to a specific song that is my Survivor Anthem, this prompted a few people to add their own to the list.  Then the wonderful Livestrong Foundation got involved and the Cancer Community outdid themselves and below is a list, not exhaustive, of the most popular Survivor Anthems that Cancer Warriors use to inspire, to motivate to encourage and to support themselves with.

For me it’s the lyrics in Stronger, some of the lyrics I should add. It’s the mantra and the repetition of that what does not kill me will make me stronger and that is what I hold on to, what I have held on to for such a long time now.  I will take more from Cancer than it takes from me and I will be a stronger better person as a result of each fight I have.

The list below is eclectic, very very eclectic, having downloaded it all and listened to it, but what unifies the list is not the music or the lyrics in all cases but what people take from that song.  There’s something in all these songs that resonate with fighters and survivors in some way.

Before you get to the list though a little bit of the science behind why music moves us the way it does.  For those who just want to skip to the really good stuff it’s after the bit in italics.

Music can be a powerful force. In fact, it is sometimes banned (along with steroids and stimulant drugs) to prevent athletes from gaining an unfair advantage during competitions. Why? Because of its capacity to energize and to motivate!

How does music boost motivation so strongly and otherwise help get us through the most tedious or nerve wracking of tasks?

One of music’s energizing effects comes from its ability to engage the body’s sympathetic nervous system. The activation of this system readies the body for action whenever we face a challenge in our environment.

Airways open, the heart rate accelerates, and muscles are primed to move. Auditory signals – abrupt sounds or those that suddenly increase in frequency or volume – trigger alerting responses and increase physiological arousal.

Music is comprised of these and other patterns of sounds that have been shown to affect levels of physical excitability and mental capabilities. A simple increase in the pace of the music we listen to, for example, can quicken our pulse and accelerate our breathing. Which given the adrenal response that survivors and fighters have in response to the survival instinct kicking in as they go for treatment.  There’s not a lot scarier than a true life or death situation!

Music also affects the co-ordination of activity within and across different parts of the brain. Studies examining patterns of electrical activity across the brain suggest that synchronization of brain signals is important for linking perceptual, cognitive and motor processes.  SO processing what is occurring and learning to cope with the stressors and threats whether real or perceived about going into a hospital environment requires this coordination.

Physical and mental endurance can also be enhanced by music’s capacity to draw our attention away from the negative aspects of a task or activity. The brain’s attention and coping systems, which includes some of the top and outermost regions of the frontal and parietal lobes, acts to enhance neural activity in areas that contribute to whatever we are focused on and reduce activity from other areas of the brain.  Focusing on a favourite song combats de-motivating brain signals.

Indeed much of music’s power lies in its ability to elicit emotional reactions and enhance mood. Recent neuroimaging investigations have allowed a dramatic increase in our understanding of how different networks of emotion- and motivation-related brain regions are recruited to produce these affective experiences – from the visceral shiver running down one’s spine, to the sense of empowerment that can arise from a good set of lyrics, or intensely positive memories associated with a favourite piece of music.

So the next time you face a daunting task, think of a strategic musical choice to give your brain and body a motivational boost.

With huge thanks to Mark Fenske associate professor in neuroscience at the University of Guelph, co-author of “The Winner’s Brain: 8 Strategies Great Minds Use to Achieve Success”  Whose work I have savagely plagiarised but out of all the writing on the subject his was the most accessible.

So….a strategic musical choice, well those I have in abundance from the wonderful Cancer Community and here is the list:

I have purchased all of these songs into my iTunes account and as soon as I work out how to publish that playlist it’ll be up for everyone.

“Stronger” – Kanye West

“A little drunk is better than dead” – The Push Stars

“Don’t you worry Child” – Swedish House Mafia

“With a little help from my friends” – The Beatles

“I stand alone” –  Godsmack

“Keep on the Sunny Side” – The Whites

“The Living proof” – Mar J Blige

“You gotta fight for your right” – Beastie Boys

“Live like you were dying” Tim McGraw

“I ain’t going out like that” – Cypress Hill

“Fight the good fight” – Triumph

“I won’t back down” – Tom Petty

“Get up, stand up” – Bob Marley and the Wailers

“Firework” – Katy Perry

“If you’re going through hell” – Rodney Atkins

“Stand” – Rascal Flatts

“Stronger” – Kelly Clarkson

“Have you ever seen the rain” – Creedence Clearwater revival

“We belong” – Pat Benatar

“Let it be’ – The Beatles

“Strong Enough” – Matthew West

“I’m gonna love you through it” – Martina McBride

“It’s not my time” – three doors down

”Steady my heart” – Kari Jobe

“I run for life” – Melissa Etheridge

”3 Little Birds” – Bob Marley

“Hope” – Rush

“Secret o’ life” – James taylor

“Survivor” – Destiny’s Child

“It’s a wonderful world” – Louis Armstrong

“Every New Day” – Five Iron Frenzy

“Ain’t no mountain high enough” –  Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell

“Soak up the Sun” – Sheryl Crow

“Rock me on the water” – Jackson Browne

Thank you again to all who contributed to this list.

Where words fail, music speaks.

-Hans Christian Andersen

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