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Happiness is a concept, a feeling and an inner state that we wish for others and for ourselves. When parents are asked what they’d like for their kids, the answer is always “For them to be happy with their life”. When we write cards for birthdays or other special occasions such as weddings, we bestow happiness on the person or couple.

Happiness is an exceptionally important ingredient in our life, and often we don’t take it seriously. How many times have you said “Just be Happy” without consciously registering what that involves?

Every human being wants to be happy – it’s something we all share; a golden thread that runs through our collective lives which connects us. For some, it is more conscious than for others, and can even be an elusive idea, another fallacy, or even a trend.

Positive Psychology, the study of human well-being and flourishing, has helped to take this topic and transpose it into a tangible, robust science that is empirical, measurable, noticeable, repetitive and valid. The words well-being and happiness are often seen as one and the same concepts even if they are not, but for the sake of this article we’ll turn a blind eye.

For a moment let’s consider the relationship between Neuroscience and Positive Psychology. Neuroscience is the scientific study of the nervous system and brain activities on a cellular and molecular level. We can’t physically see the brain working during the day, except if we were wired to a brain image scanner. However, we can feel how our brain’s state impacts on our thoughts, actions and behaviour. Brain imaging has given us the opportunity to observe the internal structure of the brain, and to see what sections in the brain are activated through activities or emotions. This technological advancement has helped us to understand where happiness is located in the brain.

The neuroscience behind happiness

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It’s incredible to think that true happiness has an actual place in the brain, and by identifying the brain-happiness area, experiments have been conducted that determine what neuro-pathways stimulate and lead to increased happiness.

When people are in a state of happiness, their prefrontal cortex (located in the forehead and responsible for allowing us to think, make decisions, focus, and attain goals) is noticeably more active. Another commonly-used name for the prefrontal cortex is the Executive brain which takes up a huge amount of energy. Besides allowing us to think, it has another important function of regulating our emotions and assisting us to recover from negative thoughts and emotions. If we learn to train our brain, we can indirectly influence our psychological and emotional well-being, also known as our level of happiness.

There are a few ways to train your brain to be happy, without the use of chemical substances.

Meditation – ten minutes of quietening the mind stimulates the prefrontal cortex and provides feelings of joy, calmness, serenity and well-being. These are ten powerful minutes in which you can empty the thoughts from your head.

Loving kindness meditation (LKM) – is a meditation where you intentionally send love, kindness, protection and well-being to your loved ones as well as to yourself. It’s a visual image where you consciously see the loved one in-front of you and then send them abundant love. It sounds strange, but if we’re honest, we do this naturally to the people we care about and love.

Gratitude awareness – taking a couple of minutes to become aware of who and what we are grateful for in the day. This can be gratitude for people, situations or events, and observing the beauty of our surroundings, relationships and life. You can have fun here and write this down in a journal, take a snapshot of it, draw it, sing it, dance it or just think it.

Strengths mindfulness – reflecting over the day and listing strengths that you applied that day. Again, it’s a conscious decision to focus on what inner strengths you used during the day in certain situations without being mindless. This can be varied from being patient and kind to an infuriated colleague, to using humour or empathy in a tough situation.

The benefit of training your brain to be happier leads to a more productive and focused mind as well as becoming happier. It’s in your control and your choice to pursue happiness in your life. Contact us for more information about crafting your happiness.