Matthieu Ricard is famous not just because he works with the Dalai Lama, but because a group of neuroscientists have scanned his brain and proven that he's off-the-charts happy. In fact, he's the happiest guy ever to stick his head in an MRI brain scanner, or to wear a zillion EEG sensors on his head (pictured). A couple of years ago, the Buddhist monk took his notoriety from the scientific journals and wrote a self-help book called Happiness. Now he goes to exclusive conferences to teach business execs how to feel happy. If Ricard's own life is any guide, there are just a few ingredients necessary to convert your sad brain into a happy one.
Last year, Ricard told The Independent that he hasn't had sex since he was 30, but that he still loves football. And the only time he's really gotten mad in the past few decades was when somebody threw flour on his laptop as a joke.
Meanwhile, the researchers at the University of Wisconsin say they can measure anyone's happiness levels by registering the amount of electrical activity in their right frontal cortex. Happy serenity is associated with activity in that region, while depression is associated with activity in the left frontal cortex. Apparently, according to The Independent:
Out of hundreds of volunteers whose scores ranged from +0.3 (what you might call the Morrissey zone) to -0.3 (beatific) the Frenchman scored -0.45. He shows me the chart of volunteers' results, on his laptop. To find Ricard, you have to keep scrolling left, away from the main curve, until you eventually find him - a remote dot at the beginning of the x-axis.
Researchers at Wisconsin determined that these scores correlate to happiness and unhappiness based on how volunteers described their own dispositions.
Is it really possible that measuring happiness is as simple as monitoring electrical activity in a general region of your brain?
Sources: The Independent, and University of Wisconsin's Lab for Affective Neuroscience