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 diversity of music genres. But it would be safe for me to assume that your favorite song most likely brings about an intense emotional response.

When people describe their favorite music, they generally describe it as sometimes giving them “the chills.” You’ve probably observed this with your favorite music. But the intriguing part is that experiencing this phenomenon is not dependent on any one kind of music.

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

The answer, as it so happens, is dopamine. Scientists at McGill University uncovered a direct connection between the elation created 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. 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 important than the emotional response it produces. This leads to some potent implications.

Let’s revisit your favorite song. Has it ever given you “the chills” or produced a powerful emotional response? If yes, you’ve just identified one of the best ways to release more dopamine into your system, which is a brain hack for positivity and inspiration.

So what genre of music should you listen to achieve these positive emotional responses? The main insight from the aforementioned research is that it depends entirely on your preferences. The music can be happy, sad, upbeat, slow, instrumental, classical, rock, or rap. The trick is taking stock of the emotional responses you obtain from different songs and genres.

Once you know how you react viscerally to specific songs, you can use those songs to solicit the sought after emotional reaction, producing the most effective emotional state for each scenario.

For example, if rock ‘n’ roll gets you pumped up and inspired for a gym session, you may want to listen to your favorite Metallica record while heading to the gym. In contrast, if you’re looking to unwind after a busy 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 an exceptional position to take advantage of this research.

Simply dial in your favorite songs 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 bring about strong reactions or particular moods for you?

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