Where is happiness? That question has been asked a thousand times. Now a group of Japanese researchers have found the answer.
Researchers from Kyoto University have discovered that while the feeling of happiness is a combination of satisfaction felt in life and happiness as an emotion, both of these occur in a section of the brain referred to as the precuneus.
For the research, the team recruited 51 people whose brains were scanned through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). They also answered a questionnaire that measured their levels of happiness, satisfaction, and sadness.
Upon analyses of the results, the team discovered that people who rated themselves to be happier or more upbeat had more gray matter in the precuneus, which means they also have a bigger precuneus. In fact, the difference of the size can be as much as 15%. The precuneus is a part of the parietal lobe found in the cerebral cortex of the cerebrum. The parietal lobe is divided into two subsections, which work with cognition and perception respectively. When a person is conscious, the precuneus is also active.
The study, which is led by Wataru Sato, PhD, also suggests that a person can feel happiness in different ways or levels. For example, some may be more responsive to compliments and acts of kindness than the others.
For the team, the study is significant because although happiness is described as an emotion, there's no method of measuring it quantitatively or objectively.
The team hopes that the research will be helpful in developing happiness programs that are backed by solid evidence or scientific research. Previous unrelated studies have revealed that activities such as meditation can help increase the gray matter that is found in the precuneus. By increasing the size, the level of subjective happiness and satisfaction of the person will also be much better.
The study is now published in Nature.