woman listening to music smiling

What’s your favorite song?

Without knowing you, it would be almost impossible for me to guess, due to the number and variety of music styles. But it would be safe for me to assume that your favorite song probably brings about an intense emotional reaction.

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

Researchers at the Montreal Neurological Institute had participants bring in their favorite music. While each participant identified 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 so happens, is dopamine. Scientists at McGill University uncovered a direct connection between the elation produced by music and the discharge of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain.

Dopamine is a chemical substance released in the brain that influences emotional regulation, pleasure, and rewards. As reported by 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 linked to dopamine, and dopamine to motivation, but the music itself is less significant than the emotional reaction it creates. This leads to some powerful implications.

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

So what type of music should you listen to attain these positive emotional responses? The principal insight from the above research is that it is dependent entirely on your preferences. The music can be happy, gloomy, upbeat, slow, instrumental, classical, rock, or hip-hop. The secret is taking stock of the emotional reactions you obtain from different songs and genres.

Once you understand how you respond viscerally to particular songs, you can utilize those songs to elicit the sought after emotional reaction, producing the optimal emotional state for each situation.

As an example, if rock ‘n’ roll gets you pumped up and inspired for a gym session, you may want to listen to your favorite Metallica album while heading to the gym. Conversely, if you’re trying to relax after a hectic day at the office, perhaps the best of Beethoven is the way to go.

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 a unique position to make the most of this research.

Simply dial in your favorite music 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 genres bring about strong responses or specific moods for you?

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