Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Search for Happiness

The Search for Happiness
by Dr. Nina La, D.C., L.Ac.
Adjunct Professor, Kaplan University School of Health Sciences
Allied medical staff, Tri-City Regional Medical Center


Siddhartha Gautama has spent his whole life teaching enlightenment.  He was 29 when he decided to leave home and search for enlighten.  Let’s just say I am around his age (plus or minus a few years, or 10—I’ll never tell!) and I am obliged to go on an enlightenment search of my own, backed up by scientific research of course! 

As you have noticed thus far, the topics for my posts have been consistently revolving around happiness and how to become and remain happy.  This is because writing about happiness actually helps educate myself and lift up my mood whenever I need a “booster shot” of the happy medicine.  As an educator, a clinician and recently a Masters of Psychology student studying the emphasis Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), I strive to constantly be the seeker of happiness.  Is happy scientifically defined?  Well, upon entering just the single word “happy” into Pubmed, I was in awe that 7689 articles turned up in reply to just the word “happy.”  Upon narrowing the search to just “English” and “humans” search words, I narrowed the articles further down to 5964 abstracts (not very much different).  So, a light bulb turns on, and I narrowed my search further down to only “Clinical Trials” and “within the past 1 year.”  There you go, now my search is more compatible to my taste of 23 articles.  But for the time being, I will just share an article of what I have learned in my search for happiness.

Did you know that oxytocin decreases aversion to angry faces?  I didn’t either until I ran into this study by Evans et. al. (2011).  Apparently, a double blind study was done where 18 participants were either prescribed intranasal oxytocin or a placebo and was divided into 2 associative learning tasks where they were instructed to choose between a happy and an angry face or a happy and a sad face.  What they found out was that the hormone oxytocin interacts with other neurotransmitters (including opioids) to effectively decrease the aversive aspect of social stimuli.  It is found that oxytocin can even decrease deficits in social interactions.  I think this study is quite funny, because participants were given a chance to increase in their financial compensation if they choose the angry face over the happy or sad face.  As significantly more participants chose the angry face “under the influence” of oxytocin as opposed to placebo, the researchers concluded that yes, oxytocin reduces the aversion to angry face, despite financial gain.

Think about how pregnant women must have felt during delivery with the surge of oxytocin!  Is this study suggesting that pregnant women can handle angry faces more easily during delivery, given their surge of oxytocin?  Funny conclusion, but I doubt it…. =)

Here is the unbelievable study for those who are curious.

Evans, S., Shergill, S, & Averbeck, Bruno (2010). Oxytocin Decreases Aversion to Angry Faces in an Associative Learning Task. Neuropsychopharmacology (2010) 35, 2502–2509. Retrieved from:

Dr. Nina La is an adjunct professor at Kaplan University. She is also allied medical staff specialized in acupuncture at Tri-City Regional Medical Center (Hospital), a chiropractic physician, and an herbalist.  You can contact her at, or visit her website at


body lift said...

Such nice article. I can believe in you. You have better taste of life. This is one of the best thing I read today.

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