The Link Between Music, Emotion, 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 large number and diversity of music genres. But it would be safe for me to assume that your favorite song most likely brings about a strong emotional reaction.

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

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

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

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 tied to dopamine, and dopamine to motivation, but the music itself is less important than the psychological reaction it produces. This leads to some potent implications.

Let’s revisit your favorite song. Has it ever given you “the chills” or created 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 listen to attain these positive emotional responses? The principal insight from the above research is that it depends completely on your tastes. The music can be happy, gloomy, upbeat, slow, instrumental, classical, rock, or rap. The secret is taking inventory of the emotional reactions you receive from different songs and genres.

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

For example, if rock ‘n’ roll gets you pumped up and stimulated for a workout, you may want to listen to your favorite Metallica record while heading to the gym. Conversely, if you’re trying to relax 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 directly to your hearing aids. This puts you in an exceptional position to reap the benefits of this research.

Simply dial in your favorite music 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?

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.