Matthieu Ricard is a Tibetan Buddhist monk who participated in a study of the effects of mental training on the brain conducted at the universities of Madison-Wisconsin, Princeton, and Berkely. The scientists from the University of Wisconsin (Wisconsinm USA) say that Matthieu is the happiest person in the world – or at least the happiest of all the subjects taking part in the study. They came to this conclusion after studying his brain activity over a period of 12 years, during which they considered some important factors, such as meditation and compassion.
This research looked at how his brain worked using a variety of techniques and tools. Some of these tools were as modern as nuclear magnetic resonance or NMR. Thanks to these techniques, an increased activity in Ricard’s left prefrontal cortex could be detected, which was associated with his positive feelings.
The results of this study, published in 2004 by the National Academy of Science of the United States, made such an impression that the paper is one of the most widely consulted scientific references in history.
“In general, human happiness does not depend on great fortunes that rarely happen, but on the little things that happen every day.”
Comparisons are luck killers
According to the happiest person in the world , the main factor that supposedly robs us of our happiness is the habit of comparing ourselves to others. In relation to this, the monk further stated that he did not agree with the title he had been given – happiest person in the world – because he considered it absurd.
In this context, neuroscience found out what makes the happiest people in the world unhappy: the comparison with others. We must always remember that when we compare ourselves to them, we are only seeing part of others’ lives. When comparing with others, we usually focus on the other’s successful or outstanding aspect without realizing that there is sure to be a part that is less enviable.
When we see someone who succeeds, we tend to think that that person was lucky or that circumstances turned out to be such that he could achieve that success. Very rarely do we consider the entire process and the sacrifices made in it – we only see the result. We don’t look behind the scenes, don’t attend rehearsals, or even pay attention to the show. And that’s why we feel inferior, which triggers dissatisfaction in us when we seek comparison with our fellow human beings.
“We are all geniuses. But if we judge a fish by its ability to climb trees, it will believe all its life that it is useless. “
Happiness comes with the years of life
According to a study by Andrew Oswald, Professor of Economics and Behavioral Science at the University of Warwick (England, UK), which examined more than 500,000 people in America and Europe, happiness comes with the years of life. The same line of research conducted the research in which a group of scientists from the University of Wisconsin found the happiest man in the world.
Although the beginning of adulthood is accompanied by optimism and exhilaration, over time things gradually get more complicated until they seem like a calamity in the crisis of the 40s. According to certain studies by recognized institutes, such as the America’s General Social Survey, the most unhappy people are between 40 and 50 years old and the happiest are people in their 70s.
And that has little to do with income or health. The British economist Richard Layard has shown that with an annual income of more than 15,000 US dollars per inhabitant (or its equivalent with the same purchasing power) the increase in a country’s GDP no longer has any influence on the level of prosperity. Americans, he said, are on average richer than Danes, but they are not happier.
In addition to the age variable, daily meditation contributes to happiness, at least scientific findings have supported this thesis. A study of meditation and compassion at the University of Wisconsin found that 20 minutes of daily meditation is enough to increase our subjective well-being.
Fittingly, the scanners in Matthieu Ricard’s study showed a very high level of activity in the left prefrontal cortex of his brain while he was meditating, which enabled him to develop an enormously strong ability to be happy and generally feel less negativity.