Can Music Help Us Be More Resilient?

Steve Gleason reveals how music has helped him cope with ALS

Music has helped people cope with stresses in life for ages. Music is often emotional, and therefore can help soothe our negative emotions and regulate stress. Many people use music on a regular basis to cope with the difficulties of every day life. This is also true for Steve Gleason, former National Football League player, who has used music to help him cope with ALS. Although its ability to soothe us is often forgotten when we need it most, music can be integrated into life so that it is always there when we need it.


Research has demonstrated that listening to classical or self-selected music after a stressful incident can significantly reduce negative feelings. Music has been shown to relieve symptoms of depression in an elderly population and increase self-esteem. Other research indicates that music therapy has been shown to reduce emotional distress and improve the quality of life among cancer patients. Music continues to be used in a number of settings to help people cope with hardship and negative moods.

Steve Gleason

Steve Gleason, a former NFL Special Teams player, was diagnosed with Amytrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as also known as "Lou Gehrig's Disease," a terminal neuro-muscular disease, in 2011. Gleason was a big fan of the band Pearl Jam since his adolescence, and was able to meet them while playing for the New Orleans Saints. He developed a friendship with the band members, and was featured in a documentary by Pearl Jam prior to the release of their album, Lightning Bolt.

Gleason interviewed the band and indicated how their music has helped him cope with his illness. Gleason is an inspiration to many, coping pro-actively by living life to his fullest, trying to give back through his organization Team Gleason, and relying on music as one source of support. ESPN released a segment of the interview, and it is really worth watching.


Using Music To Cope

Gleason reminds us of the healing qualities of music. Even though it is easy to forget about music when life throws problems our way, it can be helpful to remember that music can help us get through the hard times. Integrating music into your daily routine is one way to ensure that you have music at hand on a regular basis.

Here are some ideas that you can use to take advantage of the healing effects of music:

  • Load up your smart phone with relaxing music that you can listen to after a stressful incident.
  • Shut off the TV and listen to music instead.
  • Take some time out to make a playlist of particular songs depending on what you need, e.g. motivation, stress relief, etc., and remember to enjoy it when you need to.
  • Bring music with you when you are walking the dog or doing chores.
  • Get a radio for the shower and enjoy singing along.

Music clearly can help with many things, and is easy to integrate into your life. Turn the volume up, and see if music can help you cope with difficulties, just as Gleason has done.


Hanser S. and Thompson L. (1994) Effects of a music therapy strategy on depressed older adults. Journal of Gerontology, 49, 265-9.

Labbé E, Schmidt N, Babin J, Pharr M. (2007) Coping with stress: the effectiveness of different types of music. Applied psychophysiology and biofeedback, 32, 163-8.

Waldon E. (2001) The effects of group music therapy on mood states and cohesiveness in adult oncology patients. Journal of Music Therapy, 38, 212-38.

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