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The Science of Happiness

Happiness is a pleasure that can aptly be described as a state of content, aided by the absence of gross desire. //

For generations, man has indulged in a conscious pursuit to quench his yen for happiness.For most people it has proven to be as evading as their quest for the Holy Grail. Different cultures take a different view of happiness. The eastern culture harbors a fatalistic view of life, which enables them to accept happiness, and overcome unhappiness, with an inbuilt ease. The western culture, on the other hand, with its individualistic approach, and its insatiable urge to achieve, views happiness as yet another goal.

About 5 million people in the UK suffer from depression at any given time, 30-40% of who do not respond to treatment. There is an endless list of factors such as debt, loneliness, weather or work pressure that sets off the sadness siren. The neuroscience that delves into the biology of well being is toddling towards a complete explanation, and the striving researchers claim that happiness is palpable.The foci of their research are pleasure and desire, two complex and interesting emotions in humans.

In an early study conducted by James Old and Peter Milner of McGill University, rats repeatedly pressed a lever, sometimes as often as 2000 times / hr, to experience stimulation targeted at a specific area of the brain. During this period they refused to stop for feeding, drinking or acts of procreation. These areas, identified as the ‘pleasure centers’ of the brain, were found to be impaired in individuals with Parkinson’s disease. The signaling chemical, dopamine, was christened the ‘pleasure chemical’. It was later established by Kent Berridge of the University of Michigan that the electrodes actually kindled desire, rather than pleasure. The dopamine system was found to control desire while the opioid syst
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