India Today

Happiness now braving a new frontier: The science lab

The age old quest of philosophers and spiritual masters, happiness is now braving new frontiers: the science lab. Get ready to rewire your brain to that most elusive of emotions.

Framed by the Western Ghats, overlooking eucalyptus forests and coffee fields lies Bylakuppe, a little known outpost of Tibetan Buddhism in Karnataka's Coorg district. A signboard reads, Sera Jey Monastic University. Inside, scarlet prayer flags flutter, as monks chant, study and meditate. But what goes on in a small laboratory in the campus makes for an unusual spectacle: here monks are strapped to electrode sensors, while scientists measure upward spirals of positive emotion in their brain on electroencephalogram, or EEG, machines. Call it a 'happiness project', where science meets spirituality.

Imagine 100 billion little wisps of jelly (or tofu, or toothpaste) that is your brain. It can 'talk' to itself via molecules, neurons, nerve networks faster than an F1 car. It can fall in love, do complex arithmetic, contemplate the meaning of life, god. It can go out of whack from loneliness and depression. And it can fill you with uproarious joy. Happiness, the domain of philosophers and spiritual masters for centuries, has found a new bed mate: science. Neuroscientists are strapping monks to EEG and MRI machines; geneticists are locating genes associated with happiness; psychologists are moving away from their customary focus on disorders and dysfunctions to shed new light on how positive emotions can help people flourish; economists have joined the party, seeking to find out what people really value. With it all, peer reviewed academic journals are publishing papers on happiness, researchers are winning the Nobel Prize (economist Sir Angus Stewart Deaton in 2015) and the "science of happiness" has become the hot topic of the day.

UNHAPPY NATION

What could it be that makes one happy? It's a

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