The Link Between Music, Mood, and Motivation

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 number and diversity of music styles. But it would be safe for me to assume that your favorite song most likely elicits a strong emotional reaction.

When people describe their favorite music, they frequently describe it as sometimes giving them “the chills.” You’ve likely experienced this with your favorite music. But the fascinating part is that experiencing this feeling is not dependent on any one genre of music.

Researchers at the Montreal Neurological Institute had participants bring in their favorite music. Even though each participant expressed an intense emotional reaction, the music genres ranged from classical to jazz to punk. 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 created by music and the discharge of the neurotransmitter dopamine.

Dopamine is a chemical substance released in the brain that affects 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 emotional reaction it brings about. This leads to some powerful implications.

Let’s take another look at your favorite song. Has it ever given you “the chills” or created 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 go with to attain these positive emotional responses? The chief insight from the aforementioned research is that it is dependent completely on your tastes. The music can be joyful, gloomy, upbeat, slow, instrumental, classical, rock, or hip-hop. The secret is taking stock of the emotional responses you obtain from different songs and genres.

Once you know how you respond viscerally to specific songs, you can make use of those songs to arouse the sought after emotional reaction, producing the most effective emotional state for each situation.

For instance, if heavy metal gets you pumped up and energized for a gym session, you may want to listen to your favorite Metallica CD while heading to the gym. Conversely, 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 directly to your hearing aids. This puts you in an exceptional 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 music genres bring about strong reactions or particular moods for you?

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.

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