A trainer once gave me some advice: The best money I could spend was $10 on iTunes every week. Music can be an incentive to exercise, he said. He was right. I'm a slow runner, but when I listen to Nas and Damian Marley's "As We Enter" or Hozier's "Take Me to Church," I feel like my Nikes really do have wings. In fact, I've found that music can incentivize everything. Take my family's hellish mornings: Despite our tight schedule, my husband is lost in his computer while my daughter plays on the iPad instead of eating her breakfast empanada. But when I play my "Wake Up Happy!" playlist, I yell less. (If any song can puncture a bad mood, it's Elvis Crespo's sexy "Suavemente.") In my teen years, music was the currency of life: Car rides required it; making out without it was unthinkable. I refuse to give it up. I have playlists for errands, for cleaning, for crying. When I'm stressed, I turn to a calming Wilco mix (my husband, who made it, named it "Chillco"). Everything we feel has already been felt, and music is the eternal reminder of that. Joy, sadness, lust, redemption: We're all living it, beat by stirring beat.

Playlist for a Happier Life

1. "Free" Rudimental featuring Emeli Sandé
All about embracing imperfection. So versatile you can run, cook, drive, or nap to it.

2. "Wavin' Flag" K'naan
The chorus says, When I get older, I will be stronger: True of every one of us.

3. "Freedom! '90" George Michael
It's as though God (or maybe just George) wrote these lyrics solely to cheer us up.

4. "Seven Nation Army" Ben L'Oncle Soul
The French crooner's White Stripes cover makes you feel like someone—a whole army!—has your back.

5. "Free Your Mind" En Vogue
A fabulous dance anthem—and a powerful note to self, reminding us that the more open we stay, the better off we'll be.


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