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What’s your favorite song?

Without knowing you, it would be almost impossible for me to guess, due to the number and range of music styles. But it would be safe for me to assume that your favorite song probably elicits a strong emotional response.

When people talk about their favorite music, they often describe it as occasionally giving them “the chills.” You’ve probably experienced this with your favorite music. But the intriguing part is that experiencing this phenomenon is not dependent on any one genre of music.

Researchers at the Montreal Neurological Institute had participants bring in their favorite music. Although each participant reported an intense emotional reaction, the music genres themselves 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 produced by music and the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine.

Dopamine is a chemical 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 tied to dopamine, and dopamine to motivation, but the music itself is less important than the psychological reaction it creates. This leads to some powerful implications.

Let’s return to your favorite song. Has it ever given you “the chills” or created a strong emotional response? If yes, you’ve just identified one of the most effective methods 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 reactions? The key insight from the above research is that it depends entirely on your preferences. The music can be joyful, sad, 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 react viscerally to particular songs, you can use those songs to solicit the desired emotional reaction, producing the ideal emotional state for each situation.

For instance, if rock ‘n’ roll gets you pumped up and inspired for a workout, you may want to listen to your favorite Metallica record while heading to the gym. On the other hand, if you’re looking 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 straight to your hearing aids. This puts you in an exceptional 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 music genres bring about strong reactions or particular moods for you?