woman listening to music smiling

What’s your favorite song?

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

When people talk about their favorite music, they frequently describe it as occasionally giving them “the chills.” You’ve probably 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. Although each participant expressed an intense emotional reaction, the music genres ranged from classical to jazz to punk rock. With so much diversity, what was responsible for this underlying emotional response?

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

Dopamine is a chemical 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 associated with dopamine, and dopamine to motivation, but the music itself is less significant than the emotional reaction it brings about. This leads to some compelling implications.

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

So what genre of music should you go with to achieve these positive emotional reactions? The fundamental insight from the above research is that it depends solely on your preferences. The music can be joyful, sad, upbeat, slow, instrumental, classical, rock, or hip-hop. The secret is taking inventory of the emotional reactions you receive 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.

As an example, 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 busy 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 directly to your hearing aids. This puts you in a unique position to make the most of this research.

Simply dial in your favorite songs 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 reactions or specific moods for you?

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