The Link Between Music, Mood, 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 variety of music genres. But it would be safe to assume that your favorite song probably brings about an intense emotional reaction.

When people describe their favorite music, they generally describe it as occasionally giving them “the chills.” You’ve most likely observed this with your favorite music. But the interesting part is that experiencing this phenomenon is not reliant on any one type of music.

Researchers at the Montreal Neurological Institute had participants bring in their favorite music. While each participant described an intense emotional reaction, 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 so happens, is dopamine. Scientists at McGill University found a direct connection between the elation generated by music and the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine.

Dopamine is a chemical released in the brain that influences 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 significant than the emotional reaction it creates. This leads to some powerful implications.

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

So what type of music should you go with to attain these positive emotional reactions? The principal insight from the above research is that it is dependent completely on your tastes. The music can be joyful, gloomy, upbeat, slow, instrumental, classical, rock, or rap. The secret is taking stock of the emotional reactions you receive from different songs and genres.

Once you understand how you respond viscerally to particular songs, you can make use of those songs to elicit the sought after emotional reaction, producing the most effective 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 album while heading to the gym. In contrast, if you’re hoping to loosen up after a stressful 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 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 music genres elicit strong responses or specific moods for you?

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