The human brain is not designed to be happy - so let's stop obsessing

The great industry dedicated to happiness and positive thinking, with an estimated value of 11 billion dollars annually, has been responsible for creating the fantasy that happiness is a realistic goal. The pursuit of the dream of happiness is a very American concept, which has been exported to the rest of the world through popular culture. Indeed, the search for happiness is one of the inalienable rights of the United States. Unfortunately, this has led to the creation of expectations that real life refuses to meet.

Even when all our material and biological needs are satisfied, it will still be impossible to achieve a state of sustainable happiness. This will continue to be presented as a theoretical and elusive goal, as Abd-al-Rahman III, the caliph of Cordoba discovered in the 10th century. He was one of the most powerful men of his time, who triumphed in cultural and material fields, and who enjoyed earthly pleasures in his two harems. However, when the end of his life approached, he decided to count the exact number of days he felt happy. It counted exactly 14 days.

Happiness, as the Brazilian poet Vinicus de Moraes says, is "like a feather flying in the air. It flies lightly, but not for long." Happiness is a human construction, an abstract idea with no equivalent in human experience. If there are positive and negative reactions in the brain, but sustained happiness has no biological basis. E- equally surprisingly- I think this is something we should be happy about.

Nature and evolution

Humans are not designed to be happy, not even satisfied. Instead, we are primarily designed to survive and reproduce, like all other creatures in the natural world. The state of satisfaction is discouraged as it could lower our defenses and leave us more defenseless against the dangers to our survival.

The fact that evolution has prioritized the development of a large central lobe (which gives us great executive and analytical skills) in our brain over our ability to be happy tells us a lot about nature's priorities. Different geographical locations and circuits in the brain are each associated with certain neurological and intellectual functions, but happiness is not found in any brain tissue, since it is simply a construction without any neurological basis.

In fact, experts in this field argue that the failure of nature to discard depression in the evolutionary process (even given the clear disadvantages of survival and reproduction) is precisely because depression as an adaptation plays an important role in the times of adversity, by helping the depressed individual to withdraw from risky and useless situations that he cannot win. Depressive thoughts are also useful for the problem-solving function in difficult times

Where Is Happiness Located? Gutenberg Encyclopedia


The current happiness industry has some of its roots in the Christian moral code, which tells us that there is a moral reason that leads us to be unhappy. Many times they attribute our unhappiness to our moral defects, such as our selfishness and materialism. They preach a state of virtuous psychological balance through renunciation, detachment and restraint of desires.

In fact, these strategies simply try to find a remedy for our inability to enjoy life constantly, so we should be comfortable knowing that unhappiness is not our fault. It is the fault of our natural design. It is in our model.

Proponents of a morally straight path to happiness see the shortcuts to pleasure that psychedelic drugs procure. George Bernard Shaw said: "We have both the right to consume happiness without producing it, and to consume wealth without producing it." Apparently, the good being must be earned, which shows that it is not a natural state.

The inhabitants of Aldous Huxley's book, A happy world they live happy lives but with the help of the "soma" a doga that makes them docile but satisfied. In this novel, Huxley suggests that a free human being has to be tormented by difficult emotions. Given the choice between emotional suffering and satisfied placidity, I suspect that many people would prefer the latter.

But the "soma" does not exist, so the problem is not that getting constant and reliable satisfaction through chemicals is illegal; if not that is impossible. Chemicals alter the mind (which can be good at times), but since happiness is not related to brain function, we cannot copy it in a chemical way.

Happy and unhappy

Our emotions are mixed and impure, messy, tangled, and sometimes contradictory, like everything else in our lives. Research has shown that positive and negative emotions and their effects can coexist in the brain, relatively independently. This model shows that the right hemisphere preferentially processes negative emotions, while positive ones are addressed by the left side of the brain.

It is worth remembering, then, that we are not designed to be consistently happy. Instead, we are designed to survive and reproduce. These are difficult tasks, so we are supposed to fight, and aspire, seek gratification and security, overcome obstacles and avoid pain. The model of the competition of emotions that offers the coexistence of pleasure and pain is much more in line with our reality than the impossible bliss that the happiness industry tries to sell us. In fact, pretending that any level of pain is abnormal, or pathological, will only lead to feelings of frustration and inadequacy.

Assuming there is no such thing as happiness may seem to be a purely negative message, but the consolation is in the fact that at least we now know that discontent is not a personal failure. If sometimes you are unhappy, this does not represent a deficiency that needs urgent remedy, as the gurus of happiness say. Not at all. This fluctuation is, in fact, what makes you human.