woman listening to music smiling

What’s your favorite song?

Without knowing you, it would be difficult for me to guess, due to the large number and diversity of music styles. But it would be safe to assume that your favorite song most likely brings about an intense emotional response.

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

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

The answer, as it so happens, is dopamine. Scientists at McGill University found 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 associated with dopamine, and dopamine to motivation, but the music itself is less important than the psychological reaction it brings about. This leads to some potent implications.

Let’s go back to your favorite song. Has it ever given you “the chills” or produced a intense emotional reaction? If so, you’ve just discovered one of the best ways to release more dopamine into your system, which is a brain hack for positivity and motivation.

So what type of music should you listen to realize these positive emotional reactions? The major insight from the above research is that it is dependent completely on your preferences. The music can be happy, gloomy, upbeat, slow, instrumental, classical, rock, or rap. The secret is taking stock of the emotional reactions you obtain from various songs and genres.

Once you know how you respond viscerally to certain songs, you can make use of those songs to solicit the desired emotional reaction, producing the most effective emotional state for each scenario.

For instance, if heavy metal gets you pumped up and inspired for a gym session, you may want to listen to your favorite Metallica CD while heading to the gym. Conversely, if you’re trying to unwind after a chaotic 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 straight to your hearing aids. This puts you in a unique position to make the most of this research.

Simply dial in your favorite tracks on your phone or portable device, send 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 bring about strong responses or specific moods for you?

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