Use the right brain, if you want to be happy

By Charles Giordano

(Amber Case/ Flickr)
(Amber Case/ Flickr)

Among neuroscientists and psychologists, there is a growing consensus that our happiness is linked to the function of our brain.

We have progressed in many ways from our prehistoric human counterparts, though in some ways this progression has led to a lack of hindsight, as well as led to an overuse of the panic response to life’s everyday challenges.

As a result of written and spoken language, our brains have developed such that functions were split distinctly between two sides of the brain: the left brain and right brain.

Of the two, the right brain is much more suited for serving our true needs. The right brain is able to, according to Leonard Shlain, the author of The Alphabet versus the Goddess: The conflict between word and image, “integrate feelings, recognizes images and appreciate music.”

It is distinctly nonverbal in its method of communicating and performing these tasks.

Have you ever felt a piece of music? Not simply heard it, but comprehended it without any need to decipher the singer’s lyrics, if there are any? Classical music throughout its history did not have lyrics. In fact, I believe the appreciation contemporaries that Mozart had for his compositions was somewhat apart of his greater ability to access the use of his right brain.

We are, in our everyday lives, constantly exposed to language through oral communication, text messages, articles and musical lyrics feeding us other individuals’ ideas. Everywhere we are surrounded by words.

But what does it all mean? Words are abstract; symbols, pictures, letters, all given meaning by invention. We decided what words should mean. The disconnect between our feelings and words is lessening, but that’s not because language is changing or communication becoming simpler. The incidence of language is increasing to a near constant level in the modern westerner’s life.

Words are inherently valuable. They have allowed for great movements to occur. They have allowed for real feelings to be felt and acted upon. But what they lack is a connection to reality. With each abstract thing we attach meaning to and grant our conscious selves a reaction to, the further we are separated from reality. We often grow further from our right brain that allows us to feel satisfied. In fact, many of us find ourselves using our left brain up to 85 percent of the time.

The overuse of the left brain is a widespread symptom of a world growing ever more dependent on the availability of information. This shows itself, in my opinion, in the growing prevalence of depression in American teens and adults.

Phone addiction is a real issue. Social media is a real issue. While we are more capable of communicating events and verbal thoughts with others in ever-faster ways, we grow more and more unaccustomed to making the shift from using our left brains (which is needed performing tasks like texting a loved one) to using our right brains, and likewise grow ever more unable to emotionally connect with others.

One of the practices of   is a way of not thinking through emotions but revealing their source within us and feeling them physically. Our bodies are capable of such with the use of our right brain. But we often choose to think rather than to feel and act in response to the complex emotions we experience.

Often I have observed, in my short time on Earth, complex relationships between benevolent individuals falter. They falter because society has conditioned them to not only unconsciously disapprove of whatever deep bond they reach, but also because they are “unable” to communicate properly because they both found themselves trying to resolve an issue that didn’t require work and thought. With the functions of the right brain, we are able to observe things with a holistic, caring nature.

Mindfulness is pushed more throughout society. This simple awareness in the western world could go a long way in solving many of our individual and societal issues.

Life is complex but when mentors taught you to “follow your gut,” they meant it.

Our gut knows what it is we need, what we want and what we do not. By resorting to our left brain when it comes to making decisions, we learn to distrust our more human side that is inherently better adapted to living in reality.

Feel the rhythms of your body, feel music and feel your life. One who masters the use of their right brain’s capabilities has fully grasped the only skill truly necessary for feeling happy on a daily basis. If more of us do more of these things, I envision a friendlier world with less fearful violence and reliance on material wealth.

Charlie Giordano is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]