Maria De La Cruz, PhD
La Vie En Rose:Neuroscience and the Pursuit of Happiness
Updated: Oct 21, 2022
When I asked my grandmother Olimpia at 95 if she had any advice on how to be happy, she had an unexpected response: “Ve la vida de color de rosa” (“Look at life through rose-colored glasses”).
Viktor Frankl, the neurologist/psychologist who survived several Nazi concentration camps agrees with Olimpia and said it this way: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
So, is a hopeful perspective crucial to creating positive emotions in the brain (it is!)? Is that essentially all there is to emotional well-being (no, it isn’t!)? Serotonin (produced in the gut!), dopamine, endorphins, oxytocin are major neurotransmitters released when we experience happiness. Yet, we know that the release of these neurotransmitters alone is enough to produce but not maintain a “happy brain”.
How does our brain experience happiness, love, hope, and meaning?
Can we create a brain architecture that promotes what’s good-for-us?
Why do we feel delight on a bright autumn day or relief on coming home?
Where does joy and laughter come from (the temporal, occipital, and parietal lobes)?
How do we fall in and out of love?
What about the dark side of our brain, the “negativity bias” that causes us so much pain and suffering?
In this blog and website, we will examine these fascinating and evocative issues/concerns/questions from many positions and viewpoints-the psychological, physiological, medical, neurological, developmental as well as digging into practical support for ideal brain functioning. We will look at the brain, not as an input-output machine, but as the intricate and yes, mysterious guardian of our memories, imagination, knowledge, decisions, dreams, goals, thoughts, perceptions, intuitions, and the critical bonds and connections that define us.
Neuroscience is practically a newborn as it commands a place at the scientific table. At this emerging stage, be aware that research and its findings in neuroscience tend to be intensely exciting but tentative rather than irrefutable.
“The brain is the black box: the final frontier.” Susannah Cahalan