Building Resilience Through Gratitude – Musically

Heather Dean, MT-BC, Music Therapist

November 25, 2020

The statement I say often recently is “We WILL get through this.”

“This” obviously means the pandemic, but in addition, it means other stressors and grief so many of us are experiencing in addition to the pandemic. The best we can do to muscle through these difficult times is build resilience. Resilience can be cultivated through acts of self care, but also surprisingly through practicing gratitude.

This is the month we celebrate Thanksgiving. For many of us this will be a table for one as we are experiencing a period of isolation during a time when we would typically be sharing with our loved ones. For some there may be an empty seat at the table because a loved one is no longer with us. This can be a tough time to feel grateful when we have lost so much.


Remembering better times and wonderful holiday memories and positive memories of loved ones in its own way can be a practice of gratitude. This practice of being grateful for positive memories can remind us that future events will also bring positive memorable events.


Pay a favorite holiday soundtrack during dinner time that your family or loved ones who have passed used to enjoy. Or maybe playing a favorite piece that your loved one always enjoyed on your instrument of choice.

Embracing Our Gifts

Taking stock in the midst of chaos regarding what we can be grateful for in the moment can help us defeat rumination of what we do not have. Rumination is a thorn in the side of resilience.


Create a playlist or play a particular song that reminds you of staying in the present moment. I have a few suggestions: “Be Here Now” by George Harrison, “Be Here Now” by Ray LaMontagne, “Be Here Now” by Mason Jennings (are you catching a theme here??), “Tumbleweed” by Neil Young, “Sunshine on My Shoulders” by John Denver, “I Believe” by Irvin Drake, “I Am Light” by India Arie, “Living in the Moment” by Jason Mraz.

Slowing Down

Have you ever felt so stressed that you start forgetting things you usually remember or have trouble making simple decisions? Slowing down during the holidays is perfectly acceptable during a pandemic, in the middle of any sort of crisis, or when experiencing grief. When we slow down and take deep breaths, it allows our prefrontal cortex to function better and make better decisions. Slowing down is an act of gratitude as we honor the one thing we most definitely still have: ourselves. YOU are important. We must remember to deepen our gratitude for our own lives. Being in the present moment and contemplating the wonderful gift of our own being is a fantastic way to honor our gratitude for our own lives.


Listen to music with a slow tempo matching a resting heart rate is key to tuning in with ourselves and calming our brains and our entire bodies. Music without words is helpful as lyrics can be distracting. As you are listening simply breath in and out with the timing of music—typically in 2,3,4, out 2,3,4. Try and give attention to your belly expanding and retracting below your ribcage. Music suggestion; Pachabel “Canon in D,” Albonini “Adagio in G Minor,” Bach “Air On a G String,” Tracey Chattaway “Embers,” Bill Evans “Peace Piece,” Ludovico Einaudi “Tracce.”

Finally, I am grateful for all of you and hope you have a peaceful holiday. Be well everyone.

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