Health And Wellness

Why Waking Up To Love Songs Can Make Or Break Your Day

Photo: AndrewFrol / Shutterstock
woman listening to music

Like most kids their age, my teenage stepdaughters love to listen to music. 

Their playlists these days include anything emo, retro Nirvana, EDM (or ADM, in the case of Owl City), and quite a lot of explicit hip-hop and rap. This is a big shift from their musical tastes a few years ago when their go-to tunes were love songs from Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, and Adele. 

So, do I censor what they listen to?

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In many ways, their musical tastes mimic the normal progression we all make as we leave our childhood/tween years behind, rebel against whatever our family’s version of "normal" is, and declare our new individuality with music that reflects the anticipation of adulthood.

We are a musical family, and I’m good with how my kids’ playlists are changing along with them. Sure, I’d prefer they didn’t listen to music where every other word is an F-bomb, but our culture has lost its aversion to such things, so that’s allowed — to hear, not speak!

But there are some things about how my girls use music that concerns me.

One of the daughters wakes up to music filled with abusive and misogynist lyrics. And that's a problem, but for reasons deeper than you might realize.

The human brain responds and fires up to rhythm and sound. In fact, human beings learn faster and retain information longer when music is used to facilitate learning.

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If you’re cramming for an exam, preparing a presentation, or just memorizing your grocery list, setting that process to supportive music amplifies the results. Conversely, there is music that interferes with the learning process, slowing it down, and impeding the brain’s ability to process and retain information.

Of course, with more than seven billion of us listeners on the planet, there are exceptions — there’s no single piece of music that impacts every one of us exactly the same way.

So, why does it matter what music you listen to while waking up in the morning?

Intense music (metal, rap, club music) generally activates your lizard brain — the adrenaline-based fight, flight, or freeze mechanisms that have helped keep us alive for more than 100,000 years. Do you really want to wake up angry, frightened, or catatonic? Just asking.

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On the other hand, what about waking up to recorded rainfall? Or ocean waves? They create a much different effect on you.

This holds true for all the various genres of music, too. Some people enjoy waking up nostalgic; some enjoy the intellectual stimulation of Bach or Vivaldi. Some like the soul of Coltrane’s innovative sax solos; some prefer ballads or blues. It’s totally a personal preference.

Because it’s the first conscious moment of your entire day, explore what really makes you happy and wakes you up on the best possible note.

Try waking up to several different types of music or sound. Notice how you come out of sleep with each one. Then, pay attention to how the rest of your day unfolds, too. 

Ultimately, you may find that your week needs different sorts of music on different days: more relaxed on the weekend for example, and more activating during the week. Upbeat is fine, it's the music that fuels negative moods or agitated energy that you should probably avoid. 

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Bill Protzmann is a speaker and life coach raising awareness about the power of music as self-care.