Listening to music has long been known to evoke emotional feelings. However, more recent research shows it produces a physical reaction as well. As music pulses through us, it can create peak emotions, which increase the amount of dopamine released. This neurotransmitter is known as the chemical in the brain that helps control the reward and pleasure centers, or sometimes referred to as the “sin centers.”
Without dopamine, we are not motivated, we are unable to finish tasks, we are often depressed and unable to enjoy the simplest things in life. That is where I was for so many months. I didn’t listen to music, I stopped reading, painting and swimming, all the things that brought me joy. I didn’t want to feel pleasure. It hurt too much so I shut down the dopamine production. To feel pleasure, you have to open yourself up and be vulnerable and I was too afraid to.
As I struggled to write my dating profile, describing what I like and who I am, I realized how important music is to me. My taste ranges from Pop to Classic Rock, French Jazz to everything in between. I can hear a song on the radio in the car and I start swaying to it, snapping my fingers and looking kind of silly to the person sitting next to me at the light. I’ll be walking with my headphones on and suddenly a favorite song takes over and I start walking faster, my hips swinging and swaying and my walk almost becomes a dance along a path hopefully not filled with a lot of staring people.
Yesterday I was introduced to a genre of music that was popular in the early 2000’s, kind of an R&B/Pop/Electronic/Jazz fusion known as Trip Hop, with rich harmonies and riffs unheard of before. As I started listening to it, I stopped what I was doing. I put down the phone, and let the music control every part of my being. It was like drinking a smooth glass of wine and taking something to relax at the same time. I just experienced it fully and turned everything off inside of me; no worries, no planning, no thinking, just pure pleasure.
I decided to invite one of my dates over for dinner. This guy was starting to fill my head with daydreams about night things in the middle of the day. I planned a romantic dinner, I set the table with candles and wine, and started playing my new tunes…the music that brought me to my knees. By the end of the dinner, which we quickly rushed through, we had reached a connectivity that allowed us to truly see who we were, not strangers, not random people who just met online, but two people who were experiencing the effects of those “sin centers.” The music had worked it’s magic and was drawing us closer into a web of intimacy and pleasure.
I am one of the lucky ones. Everything has always been more vivid to me (other than when I shut it down a few months ago). A glimpse of a colorful wildflower growing next to a path quickens my heart, the brilliant blue sky when I float on my back at the pool makes me feel like I am part of something way bigger than me, the sound of a favorite song sends a quiver through my body, the smoky, berry and chocolatey feel of wine on the back of my throat is almost a sensual feeling.
Music is part of each of us regardless of where we live, our race, our religion, and even our divisive political viewpoints. Take a moment, find a song and let it wash over you. It will change your day and if you let it, your life. You might wonder what this mystical music was…2001’s “Simple Things” by Zero 7. I am still listening to it now.