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Happiness may be the key to better brain function


happiness
Photo: Stocksy/Good Vibrations

Have you ever noticed that when you’re in a good mood, not only are you completing your tasks more effectively, but it’s easier to let minor annoyances—like someone else booking your preferred bike in spin class—just slide?

That sparkly rainbow filter you’re seeing the world through isn’t just your imagination. New research shows that happiness is more than just an emotion—it actually affects how you process information, your ability to focus, and your overall perceptions, according to a post in Psychology Today written by Susan Krauss Whitbourne, PhD.

Happiness affects how you process information, your ability to focus, and your overall perceptions.

New research looked at findings from over 1,000 studies on mood and attention, and found that happiness causes you to take in a broader array of stimuli, and could lead you to be more imaginative and less analytical. It also tends to give you the mental flexibility of looking outward and inward for inspo, depending on the issue you’re facing. Notice how when you’re not so happy, you tend to close off from the world and just think bad thoughts?

Whitbourne explains that, according to neuroscience research, being in a positive mindset allows your brain to choose which parts of the cortex (the site of higher-order cognition) to use when facing a dilemma. Some parts are focused on internal thoughts and other parts are focused on external stimuli—and a positive mood allows your brain to pick the parts of the cortex that are most up to the challenge of solving the problem.

In a negative mindset, though, your brain often will bypass external stimuli altogether and go straight to internal problem-solving, which leads to stewing, rumination, and basically staying in your own head without noticing the world around you—and the help it might provide.

Behold the power of happiness—even if you’re facing tough times, try to focus on the positive. It’ll help you tap into your innate ability to kick ass.

Looking for tips on getting that positive outlook? Look to the stars—here’s how to be happier based on your astrological sign. And here are seven inspiring tricks for becoming a more fearless, happier woman