The list of effective tips to live a happier life includes working hard, control your anger, exercise, volunteer and enjoy nature. And the list goes on... But did you know that happiness can be worked like a muscle?
A new study indicates that it is possible to develop a happier brain with practices like meditation. Scientists at Kyoto University discovered that an area of the brain called the precuneus - considered to be associated with consciousness - is responsible for happiness.
‘An area of the brain called the precuneus may be responsible for happiness. The study suggests that the area can be developed with practices like meditation.’
AdvertisementThey asked as many as 51 individuals to rate their happiness levels. Then they scanned their brains to see if they could identify any differences between the happy individuals and their more glum counterparts.
They found that participants who scored higher on contentment surveys or participants who were leading a happy life had a bigger precuneus. The difference in size between the individual with the smallest precuneus and the biggest was about 15 percent.
Dr. Wataru Sato, a cognitive psychologist at the University, says that it will now be possible to clinically evaluate what things make people happier.
"I'm very happy that we now know more about what it means to be happy. Several studies have shown that meditation increases grey matter mass in the precuneus. This new insight into where happiness happens in the brain will be useful for developing happiness programs based on scientific research. This study suggests it is possible to grow a happier brain," said Dr. Sato.
Previous researches have revealed that regular meditation can foster grey matter in the precuneus, which could describe why those who meditate report feeling happy and even bliss.
Meditation helps improve concentration. It allows you to increase your happiness by detaching you from negative thoughts and emotions. The practice enhances your ability to detach and have a fresh perspective on the past.
"Happiness is a subjective experience. Our results suggest that psychological training that effectively increases grey matter and volume in the precuneus may enhance subjective happiness," added Dr. Sato.
Experts note that the brain is malleable, just like other organs. Paying attention can change your brain structure. They back the study with the example of Black Cab taxi drivers in London.
As per the rule, these taxi drivers have to pass a very difficult examination that demands them to know in detail about 25,000 different streets in the city.
Every time, half of the prospective cabbies fail in the test. Those that do pass have larger hippocampi, which are thought to be the center of emotion, than those who fail. This shows that structure of the brain can be changed like other organs.
We can always be happy if we focus on one thing we are doing right now. So make that something you enjoy. Music also gives the same effects of meditation. You should listen to your favorite music. When you listen to music, you are concentrating on it, and your brain lights up.
The study was published in the Nature journal Scientific Reports .
References1. Wataru Sato, Takanori Kochiyama, Shota Uono, Yasutaka Kubota, Reiko Sawada, Sayaka Yoshimura, Motomi Toichi. The structural neural substrate of subjective happiness. Scientific Reports, 2015; 5: 16891 DOI: 10.1038/srep16891