The Link Between Music, Mood, and Motivation

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 range of music genres. But it would be safe to assume that your favorite song most likely elicits a strong emotional reaction.

When people describe their favorite music, they regularly describe it as sometimes giving them “the chills.” You’ve probably experienced this with your favorite music. But the interesting 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 documented 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 found a direct connection between the elation produced by music and the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain.

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 associated with dopamine, and dopamine to motivation, but the music itself is less significant than the emotional reaction it creates. This leads to some potent implications.

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

So what kind of music should you go with to achieve these positive emotional reactions? The key insight from the above research is that it depends entirely on your tastes. The music can be happy, sad, upbeat, slow, instrumental, classical, rock, or hip-hop. The trick is taking stock of the emotional reactions you obtain from various songs and genres.

Once you understand how you respond viscerally to certain songs, you can use those songs to bring about the desired emotional reaction, producing the optimal emotional state for each situation.

As an example, if rock ‘n’ roll gets you pumped up and stimulated for a gym session, you may want to listen to your favorite Metallica album while heading to the gym. Conversely, if you’re looking to unwind after a stressful 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 a unique position to take advantage 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 responses 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.