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  • Writer's picturevictoriaellenmack

Songs for a Pain-y Day, Part 1

A bad-day playlist for when your body is more chronic than iconic

On bad days, art is everything. (Well—on any day, art is everything.) But on bad days, when my joints are screaming at me and my blood pressure is dropping, when all my damn spoons are gone, I need music and TV and movies. I’m not alone in that, I know. For sick folks, these things are a part of our medicinal self-care regimen. So, I’ve compiled my own personal playlist: Songs for a Painy Day. I call these my Heart Songs—the songs I go to when my heart and body both hurt, and I’m not ready to feel happy yet. This is the playlist I use when I need to let myself feel sad.

It's science, y'all

There’s no question that music helps us when our hearts are hurting, but studies show that listening to music has tangible effects on our physical health. In fact, when researchers tested various types of music on premature infants in the ICU, they found that all the types of music they played slowed the babies’ heart rates. In another study in 2013, psychologist Daniel J. Levitin, PhD, who studies the neuroscience of music at McGill University in Montreal, found that:

“listening to and playing music increase the body's production of the antibody immunoglobulin A and natural killer cells — the cells that attack invading viruses and boost the immune system's effectiveness. Music also reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol” (American Psychological Association, “Music as Medicine,” November 2013, by Amy Novotney).

Let’s get that cortisol down, folks.


We’ve got oldies, like Otis Redding, Cat Stevens, James Taylor, Bob Marley, Sam Cooke, Nina Simone, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Joni Mitchell, and Ray Charles. We’ve got more recent oldies like Bonnie Raitt, the Magnetic Fields, Lucinda Williams, The Smiths, and Steve Earle. And we’ve got more contemporary stuff like Adele, Florence and the Machine, Jeff Buckley, Leon Bridges, Miranda Lambert, Billie Eilish, Mitski, Sia, Phoebe Bridgers, and Half Waif.

I hope you find something here that helps your heart on the bad days, whether it’s a brand-new song to you, or something you’ve listened to a hundred times.

What am I missing? Comment below and I’ll update.


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