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How Big is Your Right Amygdala?

Posted on April 18, 2006 by Kathryn Regina.

I don’t usually buy magazines.  But when I saw this month’s issue of Science & Spirit, I felt the power of marketing work its magic on me.  First, there was a baby on the cover. Second, the cover of the magazine read: “Why is this baby smiling? Like the rest of us, he may just be HAPPY to be here.”  What does a cute baby plus the promise of a scientific explanation of happiness equal? My five dollars.

As a new member of the BeTuitive team, I’ve been taking some time to re-evaluate things.  I think this is true of a lot of us; a life change re-invites old questions: What makes me happy? What is my purpose? The chicken or the egg?  Here at BeTuitive a lot of stress is placed on a happy work environment-- it’s practically a part of the business model.  But what actually makes people happy?  I was hoping Science & Spirit could tell me.

Here’s what I found out:

  1. If you’re married, you’ve got a heads-up on happiness.  So for all you married people out there, rest in the knowledge that you’d probably be a lot more down in the mouth without your partner. 
  2. Extroverts tend to have a higher baseline of happiness.  When viewing pleasant images like smiling faces and ice cream, “their brains show an increased activation in many cortical and sub-cortical regions, but even at rest, their brains display elevated blood flow in the left frontal hemisphere, an area known to be involved in positive emotions (March/April 2006 p 40).”
  3. The size of your amygdala plays a role.  “Extroverts appear to have more gray matter in the right amygdala than does the average person, while people high in pessimism or negative affect show more gray matter in the left amygdala, an area more involved with negative feelings (40).”

So what do you do if you’re a single introvert with a giant-sized left amygdala?  Don’t despair.  As Aristotle argued, happiness is its own end and the only thing that we can’t pursue directly.  Not even through marriage or brain transplants.  Happiness, Aristotle argued, is the ultimate end of every means.  And there are a lot of means.  A good career is one of them.  Being happy with your profession can be satisfying and rewarding, and working with a supportive team of people can make it even better.

More so, I think the key may be to know what is most important to you, and to live in a way that supports that.  Realizing that you are in control of your own happiness (somewhat, at least) can be a turning point.  As Abraham Lincoln said, “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

I’m going to go with Abe on this one.

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April 18, 2006 in award winning design, Blogging Tools, Building Customer Community | Permalink


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