Saturday, February 21, 2015

Where Does Happiness Come From? #psychology, #selfhelp

I was sick for several weeks, and perhaps because of the illness (asthma, coughing), I felt depressed. Not terribly depressed, but lethargic and gloomy.  I didn't have the zest, the curiosity, the desire to explore and discover new things, see old friends, as I usually do.  Then, my asthma and cough cleared up and I discovered that the depression lifted. I returned to writing; I enjoyed doing my daily tasks once again; I laughed, I felt good about life, about myself.  I felt more generous to others.

I noticed the emotional change in me, and I wondered about "happiness."  Does happiness come from a chemical? Is happiness a result of some cellular change? I asked the question: Where does happiness come from?

I found many articles that talked about how specific parts of our brain are active when a particular emotion is experienced. I quote from this New York Times article:

"When a woman feels sad, Dr. George discovered with a brain imaging method known as positron emission tomography, her brain shows increased activity in the structures of the limbic system near the face, and more activity in the left prefrontal cortex than in the right. His studies were conducted in women to avoid the confounding difficulty of possible differences between the sexes.

"When his 11 subjects felt happy, the characteristic pattern was a decrease of activity in the regions of the cerebral cortex that are committed to forethought and planning. These regions are in the temporal-parietal area of the cortex, located just over and a bit behind the ears, and the right prefrontal lobe, just behind the forehead. "Those neocortical regions are used in complex planning -- it's interesting these shut down in happiness," Dr. George said."
Another article talked about how one can control emotions by controlling one's thoughts:
"Research has proven time and again that cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is an effective intervention for treating anxiety and depression.  Simply put, what CBT tells us is that we can change the way we think through repeated exposures to thinking healthy thoughts, avoidance of unhealthy thoughts, and engagement in healthy behaviors.  Doing these things strengthens the left prefrontal cortex – the feel good center of the brain.
"Davidson tells us that other things can facilitate the activity of this positive neural network. Meditation (especially mindfulness meditation) can both strengthen the activity of the left prefrontal cortex and reduce the activity in the right prefrontal cortex.
"Both fun and social interaction impact the function of the brain.  Enjoying pleasurable activities, doing something that seems to make time stand still, spending time with loved ones, pursuing meaning in its many forms, and celebrating accomplishments stimulate the activity in your left prefrontal cortex.
"Finally, physical exercise can strengthen the feel good centers of the brain including those in both the mammalian and reptilian brain.  In particular, exercising in new and different ways has been found to stimulate the release of natural feel-good chemicals." 

I read another article, which I can no longer find, and that was about how being grateful for your blessings in a way exercises the part of your brain that makes you happy, whereas being resentful or angry stimulates another part of your brain.  In other words, if one focuses on being resentful or angry, that part of the brain is more developed and so the person can more easily be resentful and angry.  If the person practices gratitude, that part of the brain is developed and the person can more easily be happy.
This is all very interesting.  I practice some of what has been mentioned: meditation, prayer, being grateful, but was unaware of how all of that related to happiness.  Now I know.  I also understand why some people I knew, who dwelt on the negative aspects of their life, simply made themselves miserable.  
Think positive thoughts, dear Readers, and be happy!
Read also
Tags: happiness, joy, psychology, meditation, brain, self-help
This is all for now.

No comments: