Secrets to habit change

The Serenity Prayer: A Musical Gift

Is there a better gift than the gift of serenity?

Whether you are religious, spiritual, or atheist, you probably can appreciate the profound insights of the “Serenity Prayer.” With slight variations, the prayer is usually recited like this:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” 

The prayer is attributed to American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1892 - 1971) and is often used to begin and end 12-Step Meetings such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Al-Anon.

I often wished that I could set The Serenity Prayer to music so that I could hum along in my scritchety voice when I needed to soothe my worried mind and reach a more serene state. Research suggests that music itself, especially slow, peaceful music, can reduce stress by lowering stress hormones, blood pressure, and heart rate. Music can also help us attain a meditative focus, so that the mind doesn’t latch onto problems and obsess over them. And singing induces deep breathing, which itself is relaxing, and reduces tension.

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Since I’m no composer, I racked my brain for a familiar melody that would match the words of the prayer. I also consulted YouTube, but the versions I found there were either too difficult for an ordinary person to sing or too sentimental for my taste.

While I was washing the dishes a few months ago, the long-sought-after tune finally came to me. I realized that the phrase “God grant me the serenity” fit exactly into the first line of the well-known Christmas carol, O Tannenbaum (“O Christmas Tree”)! From there, it was relatively easy, with a little shoe-horning and stretching, to add the rest.  Below is the final product, ready to be sung either for your holiday pleasure or at any time of year. So that it doesn’t become an “earworm,” I recommend singing it slowly and pausing after each line. If you are not religious, use “O” instead of “God.” (I’ve used one of each in the arrangement below.)

The Serenity Prayer

(To the tune of “O Tannenbaum”)

God grant me the serenity

   To accept the things I cannot change;

O grant me the courage

   To change the things I can.

To accept the things I cannot change

To change the things I can

And the wisdom, the wisdom to know the diff-er-ence.

(Repeat) And the wisdom, the wisdom to know the difference.

So, in thanks for following my blog throughout the year, this musical version of the Serenity Prayer is my holiday gift for you. You can sing it with friends, family, or your choir. Or, like me, you can hum it peacefully to yourself while you do the dishes.

© Meg Selig

Source: Jane Collingwood, “The Power of Music to Reduce Stress:”

And speaking of gifts...have you considered giving yourself the gift of a healthy habit change? Check out my book, Changepower! 37 Secrets to Habit Change Success (Routledge, 2009) and see if it could help you make and keep your New Year’s resolutions. 

For more on healthy lifestyle, habit change, willpower, and related topics, follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

Meg Selig is the author of Changepower! 37 Secrets to Habit Change Success.


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