HEARING TIPS

The Connection Between Music, Emotion, and Motivation

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 styles. But it would be safe for me to assume that your favorite song most likely brings about an intense emotional reaction.

When people talk about their favorite music, they tend to 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 feeling is not dependent on any one kind of music.

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

The answer, as it so happens, is dopamine. Scientists at McGill University discovered 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 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 important than the psychological response it brings about. This leads to some potent implications.

Let’s return 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 brain hack for positivity and inspiration.

So what type of music should you listen to realize these positive emotional responses? The fundamental insight from the aforementioned research is that it depends completely on your preferences. The music can be joyful, sad, upbeat, slow, instrumental, classical, rock, or hip-hop. The trick is taking stock of the emotional responses you obtain from various songs and genres.

Once you know how you respond viscerally to specific songs, you can utilize those songs to solicit the desired emotional reaction, producing the most effective emotional state for each situation.

For example, if rock ‘n’ roll gets you pumped up and stimulated 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 relax 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 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 genres bring about strong responses or particular moods for you?

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