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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 large number and variety of music genres. But it would be safe to assume that your favorite song most likely brings about a strong emotional reaction.

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

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

The answer, as it so happens, is dopamine. Scientists at McGill University discovered a direct link between the elation generated by music and the discharge of the neurotransmitter dopamine.

Dopamine is a chemical substance released in the brain that has an effect on 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 associated with dopamine, and dopamine to motivation, but the music itself is less significant than the psychological response it creates. This leads to some compelling implications.

Let’s return to your favorite song. Has it ever given you “the chills” or produced a strong emotional response? If yes, you’ve just discovered one of the best ways 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 realize these positive emotional responses? The primary insight from the aforementioned research is that it depends completely on your tastes. The music can be happy, sad, upbeat, slow, instrumental, classical, rock, or hip-hop. The trick is taking inventory of the emotional responses you receive from various songs and genres.

Once you know how you respond viscerally to specific songs, you can make use of those songs to elicit the desired emotional reaction, producing the ideal emotional state for each situation.

For example, if rock ‘n’ roll gets you pumped up and stimulated for a workout, you may want to listen to your favorite Metallica album while heading to the gym. In contrast, if you’re hoping to loosen up after a chaotic 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 straight to your hearing aids. This puts you in a unique position to reap the benefits of this research.

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