What led to French philosopher Michel de Montaigne thanking fortune for the pain he suffered? Or why did Mahler apparently stop composing after his meeting in Holland with Sigmund Freud? Why was Alfred J Prufrock in T S Eliot’s poem so chronically depressed and suffering so much lack of self-esteem? Shall we ever really understand what makes us happy?
To some extent, the ability to be happy is inherited, but social scientists have emphasized that various environmental influences – health, a stable society, economic advantages, play a major role. Professor Winston examines the role of brain imaging, hormone study, sexuality, child development, pharmacology and psychological research in understanding how science may help us be happier. Happy people tend to live longer, and recent research suggests we tend to get happier as we get older. Is this simply because we become more forgetful? Can we make ourselves happier and if so, will knowledge of brain function and how we might manipulate it give us more fulfilled lives?