There is an interesting study by neuroscientist Dr. Richard Davidson at the University of Wisconsin that found people were more happy and energetic when the left part of their brain was highly active, and were more depressed and in an anxious mood when the right part of their brain was more active.

This is supported by evidence that extroverts are generally happier than introverts as the left part of their brain has been shown to be more active than their right part. The ratio of left-to-right activity therefore seems to indicate the happiness set-point level that people tend to always return to, regardless of whether they had just won the lottery or lost a loved one.

This follows the ‘Set-Point Theory’ of happiness that maintains that our level of happiness is somehow a constant personality trait and that whatever we do, we cannot change our happiness levels by much. Some people are naturally just happier than others. Accordingly, happy experiences can only offer a brief mood uplift, which eventually fades away as we return to our inherent happiness set-point. This is evident, for instance, from the fact that the positive effects of a holiday do not last very long, and people normally return to their pre-vacation happiness levels within 2 to 3 weeks.

Using an fMRI machine, Dr. Davidson scanned the brains of Buddhist monks, some of which had spent many years of their lives in meditation. The results of the brain imaging studies showed that, during meditation, the left part of the monks brains became highly active and tended to overrule the right part, thus raising the happiness set-point levels.

Further studies with normal participants, indicated that eight weeks of a one-hour daily mindfulness practice can significantly increase the left-side brain activity and happiness levels, for up to four months from when the training program ended.

Mindfulness is a meditation technique that helps people live in the moment and be aware of the present as it is unfolding now. This enhanced focus on the present, slows down time subjectively and creates the feeling that there is ample time to achieve the things we want to do. That positive outlook on time abundance is probably what boosts people’s happiness levels. People who are always in a rush and suffer from time scarcity tend to be less happy.

There are of course other ways that can slow down time and boost happiness. For more information on the speed of time and how to control it, check out ‘The Power of Time Perception”

There is also an interesting online test that measures how fast time runs in your brain, quick online test. You just answer a few questions and receive a detailed report about the speed of time in your mind. Speed of Time Online Test

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