Happiness Is Mainly In Your Left Hemisphere

Happiness is mainly in your left hemisphere

Contrary to popular psychology and opinion,  our feelings and emotions are not in our hearts, but in our brains. Recent research shows that a large part of our happiness basically resides in our left hemisphere. Whenever we feel excited, full of energy, positive and hopeful, our left prefrontal cortex is showing the most activity.

This is very interesting. Daniel Goleman, an American psychologist, discussed this in a New York Times article  . In it, he explained that  disciplines such as psychology, Buddhism and spirituality in general often come together. This is because they each try to answer the many questions about people and their nature.

In May 2000, a productive meeting took place. The Dalai Lama met the foremost psychologists and neurologists of the time with one goal in mind.

It was a difficult but practical goal: they wanted to find out how Buddhism dealt with negative emotions. They also wanted to know what happened in a person’s brain when that person meditated and focused on kindness, altruism, and happiness.

They met for five days in Dharamsala, India. This was a series of very productive sessions for one of the scientists in particular: Dr. Richard Davidson.

He is the head of the  Affective Neuroscience Laboratory  at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of  The Emotional Life of Your Brain  . He left Dharamsala with a new hypothesis:

Happiness is in your left hemisphere

Happiness is mainly in your left hemisphere

dr. Davidson is known for his research on affective neuroscience. “Affective” stands for something that relates to our emotional life. In each of his conference speeches, he repeats the same phrase: “ The key to a healthy life is a healthy mind.

Today, he is also president of  the Center for Healthy Minds at the aforementioned university.

In 2008, he focused one of his studies on  demonstrating the link between neuroplasticity and meditation techniques. He wanted to see whether people who practiced meditation techniques for a long time and regularly showed more brain activity and better concentration.

Also, we can find his most interesting theories in his book,  The Emotional Life of Your Brain . This was published in 2012. In this he shows that  happiness is more or less located in the left hemisphere of the brain. Let’s explore this idea in more detail!

Frontal lobes and our emotions

The mass of trillions of neurons in our skulls has been intensively studied. By saying that happiness is mainly in our left hemisphere, we are also expressing how our positive emotions have developed over time.

  • For example, until recently people assumed that our emotions and feelings were located in the misty primitive part of our brain. This one is known as the “reptile brain.” This is where we can find our oldest brain structures, such as the limbic system. This largely controls the regulation of our emotions.
  • However, neuroscience made another discovery some 30 years ago. We know that our emotions are not exclusively located in that deep region that we call the limbic system.” In fact, this structure is in direct communication with the frontal lobes. These play a major role in  the more complex thought processes.
stressed woman

Tightness, stress and anxiety are in the right hemisphere

dr. Richard Davidson already had it in mind. He was already familiar with the connection between the limbic system and the frontal lobes. However, after many years of research using MRI scans, his attention turned to the following:

  • The functional images, taken by an MRI scanner while someone is performing a task, showed a number of things. For example, it turned out that when we feel oppressed, stressed or sad, most brain activity is seen in neurons that converge in the amygdala and the right prefrontal cortex.
  • The right prefrontal cortex is associated with hyperalertness. This is something that often occurs when we are feeling very stressed.

The left hemisphere and positive emotions

Happiness lies mainly in the left hemisphere of the brain or, to be more specific, mainly in the left frontal lobe. When we feel calm, optimistic, relaxed and hopeful, the right frontal lobe becomes less active. In contrast, the left frontal lobe shows all the more activity. This is a very important and striking fact that has been proven several times by neuroscientists.

If happiness is in the left hemisphere, how can we stimulate this area?

dr. Davidson determined that if we want to influence our brain activity, the best thing  we can do is improve our thoughts and overall mental activity. This tactic is supported and deployed by the cognitive behavioral approach.

After all, this is also about changing thoughts and behavior to treat anxiety disorders, depression, phobias and general stress, for example.

We can also recommend a number of things based on the fact that happiness is mainly located in the left hemisphere. The following activities can reduce the hyperactivity of your right frontal lobe and increase the activity of your left frontal lobe.

  • Meditation
  • Friendliness
  • Altruism
  • Time to rest
  • Building friendships
  • Working towards a goal and staying motivated
  • Enthusiasm
  • Stay positive and hopeful.
meditating person

Wherever certain processes, qualities or competencies may be located, we must remember one thing. No one but yourself can influence and optimize your mental activity. 

We are the ones who should want to live a happier, more flexible and open life. We should give ourselves the opportunity to establish the authentic, neurological basis of happiness.

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