woman listening to music smiling

What’s your favorite song?

Without knowing you, it would be tough for me to guess, due to the large number and range of music genres. But it would be safe for me to assume that your favorite song probably elicits an intense emotional reaction.

When people describe their favorite music, they regularly describe it as occasionally giving them “the chills.” You’ve likely experienced this with your favorite music. But the intriguing part is that experiencing this sensation is not dependent on any one type of music.

Researchers at the Montreal Neurological Institute had participants bring in their favorite music. While each participant depicted an intense emotional response, the music genres ranged from classical to jazz to punk rock. With so much diversity, what was responsible for this fundamental emotional reaction?

The answer, as it turns out, is dopamine. Scientists at McGill University uncovered a direct connection between the elation generated by music and the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain.

Dopamine is a chemical substance released in the brain that influences emotional regulation, pleasure, and rewards. According to Richard Depue, professor at Cornell University: “When our dopamine system is activated, we are more positive, excited and eager to go after goals or rewards, such as food, sex, money, education or professional achievements.”

So music is tied to dopamine, and dopamine to motivation, but the music itself is less significant than the emotional reaction it brings about. This leads to some compelling implications.

Let’s take another look at your favorite song. Has it ever given you “the chills” or created a intense emotional response? If yes, you’ve just discovered one of the most effective methods to release more dopamine into your system, which is a life hack for positivity and motivation.

So what genre of music should you go with to achieve these positive emotional responses? The principal insight from the above research is that it depends completely on your tastes. The music can be happy, sad, upbeat, slow, instrumental, classical, rock, or rap. The trick is taking inventory of the emotional reactions you receive from different songs and genres.

Once you understand how you react viscerally to certain songs, you can use those songs to bring about the desired emotional reaction, producing the ideal emotional state for each situation.

As an example, if rock ‘n’ roll gets you pumped up and motivated for a gym session, you may want to listen to your favorite Metallica record while heading to the gym. Conversely, if you’re hoping to loosen up after a hectic day at the office, perhaps the best of Beethoven is the approach to take.

And last, if you have hearing loss, consider that the latest hearing aid technology that can stream music wirelessly from portable devices directly to your hearing aids. This puts you in an exceptional position to make the most of this research.

Simply dial in your favorite tracks on your phone or portable device, deliver it wirelessly to your hearing aids, and let the dopamine start flowing.


By the way, what is your favorite song? And which songs or music genres elicit strong responses or specific moods for you?

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