With the holidays approaching, many of us search for what will make us and others happy. What is the key to happiness and how do we measure it? A recent study found a specific area of our brain that can determine our happiness level. The researchers were able to objectively identify the neural mechanism through MRI brain scans and find the specific location of happiness. Specifically, the scientists found that the people who scored higher on the happiness surveys also had more grey matter in the precuneus part of the brain. They also concluded that people who feel happiness more intensely and feel sadness less intensely have a larger precuneus. The exciting news is that being able to identify where happiness occurs in the brain will be useful in the development of happiness programs based on scientific research.
Psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky in her book, The How of Happiness, concluded that materialism does not produce happiness, but rather it’s a strong predictor of unhappiness. Sadly many of us are caught up in “the American dream” lifestyle and have completely lost sight of the value of relationships and finding significance by giving back through our time, talent, and resources. We need to stay grounded and humble, be grateful for what we have, and recognize that life doesn’t revolve around us. I find that using my talents to help others provides me with tremendous fulfillment and gratification even when it is not job-related. Happiness is a choice and also an attitude. How we approach life can determine our level of happiness. Of course none of us can be happy all the time, but recognizing that our thoughts and actions play a crucial role can be half the battle.
As Thanksgiving is upon us, consider ways to experience happiness. Maybe make dinner for someone who can’t, serve a meal for the homeless, bring flowers to someone you love or take on another person’s chore. Random acts of kindness can create happiness in both the giver and the receiver. Often spending quality time, listening, complimenting, being affectionate, and appreciating others can produce happy feelings. Write a note, email, text, and let others know they are valued. The irony is that when we do for others we reap the most benefit. Lastly, be thankful in your words and actions.