Can Your Favorite Music Shape Your Mood?

woman listening to music smiling

What’s your favorite song?

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

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

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

The answer, as it turns out, is dopamine. Scientists at McGill University found a direct link between the elation generated by music and the discharge of the neurotransmitter dopamine.

Dopamine is a chemical released in the brain that affects 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 linked to dopamine, and dopamine to motivation, but the music itself is less important than the emotional response it brings about. This leads to some compelling implications.

Let’s take another look at your favorite song. Has it ever given you “the chills” or provided a intense emotional response? If so, you’ve just identified one of the most effective means 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 realize these positive emotional reactions? The key insight from the aforementioned research is that it depends entirely on your tastes. The music can be happy, gloomy, upbeat, slow, instrumental, classical, rock, or hip-hop. The secret is taking stock of the emotional reactions you receive from different songs and genres.

Once you know how you respond viscerally to specific songs, you can make use of those songs to elicit the desired emotional reaction, producing the ideal emotional state for each situation.

For instance, if rock ‘n’ roll gets you pumped up and stimulated for a workout, you may want to listen to your favorite Metallica CD while heading to the gym. In contrast, if you’re looking to loosen up 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 a unique position to take advantage 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 genres bring about strong responses or particular moods for you?

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