Better Mind

How songs can give your brain an emotional and physiological boost

How songs can give your brain an emotional and physiological boost

Throughout the existence of sound itself, music has remained intricately linked with profound emotions across all living creatures. It stands as one of the prime triggers capable of summoning memories or eliciting powerful responses—a peculiar phenomenon that enables humans to transition into a distinct mental or emotional realm from their previous state.

It turns out that numerous musicians have the ability to bring genuine happiness. A fresh playlist, developed in collaboration with Sonos, a speaker-making company, has been meticulously crafted to tangibly enhance your mood, utilizing solid scientific principles. This playlist, named ‘Now That’s What I Call Dopamine Daydreams’, comprises 15 tracks spanning artists from SZA to Miles Davis.

The curator behind this compilation is Indre Viskontas, who not only holds a Ph.D. in cognitive neuroscience but also possesses a Master’s degree in Music. Her objective was to elicit a sensation known as ‘the chills’ through the chosen music. This reaction, as she explained to CNBC, stems from the neurotransmitter dopamine and is linked to the brain’s pleasure and reward centers.

A wave of a physical sensation washing over you

You tend to experience a sensation of either warmth or cold running through your body. At times, it’s as though the hairs on your arms or the back of your neck are standing on end. It’s like a wave of physical sensation washes over you.

Moreover, this isn’t just an abstract feeling; it’s quantifiable as well. Researchers can examine the brain and precisely observe the changes in neurochemicals and brain activity when someone experiences these chills. This, coupled with the monitoring of heart rate, blood pressure, respiration rate, and perspiration, allows for the identification of moments when these chills occur.

Individuals who have a deep-seated love and appreciation for music from their upbringing are more prone to forming these connections and undergoing physical reactions to the music or songs they hear.

In comparing the brain activity of those who experience these chills with those who do not, a distinct and strong correlation emerges between the auditory centers of the brain and the emotional centers.

How to create your own chills-inducing playlist

If you’re aiming to curate a playlist of songs that evokes those spine-tingling moments for yourself, consider these three pointers:

Mind the tempo

While it might appear counterintuitive, slower tempo music is more likely to elicit the chills compared to faster tempo tunes. Ballads, for instance, often encompass an extended period of anticipation and a gradual buildup of tension within the music. The chills typically arise when this tension is released, often during a beat drop, modulation, or some form of alteration in the song.

Embrace the power ballads

Songs featuring a ‘wail’ or intense vocal expression could be particularly potent in triggering those chills. Researchers speculate that this might be due to the sound resembling the distress cry of a baby, a sound that humans instinctively respond to. This phenomenon can manifest during a guitar solo, in songs like Whitney Houston’s ‘I Will Always Love You’, or through Adele’s skillful vocal modulation.

Listen, don’t just hear

Provoking the chills isn’t as simple as pressing play on a specific song. Allowing music to serve as background noise during your daily tasks doesn’t suffice to cultivate the right mental state. Instead, carve out time to sit down, concentrate, and engage in an active listening session.

It’s when you genuinely immerse yourself in the emotions conveyed by the singers and connect those sentiments with your own feelings and thoughts that the chills are most likely to surface.

Uplift your spirit while enjoying a song

So the next time you immerse yourself in music, you might find yourself reflecting on how it’s actively shaping your mood, or perhaps this contemplation won’t cross your mind. This inherent quality of music is quite captivating—it seamlessly weaves into the fabric of our lives, consistently delivering joy precisely when it’s most needed.

Embracing the simplicity of enjoying a song as it uplifts your spirits could possibly be the most wholesome approach.