What Is Your Brain Type And How Does It Impact Your Happiness?

What makes for a full and happy life is a complex question. Far more than simply a state of mind, happiness can have physiological effects on almost every area of the body. According to experts at Psychology Today, feeling happy and optimistic can strengthen attentiveness, improve cognition, stimulate the growth of nerve connections, boost immunity, and increase longevity. Some studies have even shown that happiness may help reduce blood pressure (via ETH Zurich). And in the long run, holding on to a happy mood can decrease one's risk for dementia later in life (per Journal of Alzheimer's Disease).

What makes us happy varies from person to person. But research shows that what contributes to our happiness also could depend on our "brain type." Clinical neuroscientist psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Amen and his team at Amen Clinics have identified 16 different brain types divided into five primary categories and 11 combination types. In reviewing more than 200,000 patient brain scans, and observing blood flow and brain activity, researchers assessed what makes the different brain types happy and operating at peak performance. 

Balanced brain & spontaneous brain types

The five primary brain type categories are outlined as balanced brain, spontaneous brain, persistent brain, sensitive brain, and cautious brain (via Amen Clinics). None of these labels are a reflection of one's mental health, but rather, a means to gain insight as to how one might thrive best in both their personal and professional life based on self-care and productivity preferences.

Those with a balanced brain type demonstrate symmetrical blood flow in all areas of the brain. According to Amen Clinics, these folks tend to feel happiest when clear rules are established and thrive in managerial positions due to their timeliness and follow through on projects they take on. On the flip side, those with a balanced brain type tend to avoid major risk-taking. Fun fact — these individuals were found to prefer playing in sandboxes during childhood.

For people with a spontaneous brain type, adventurous activities are a major source of happiness, such as bungee jumping or spur of the moment road trips (via mindbodygreen). Because these individuals often have shorter attention spans, monotonous activities such as waiting in line tend to reduce feelings of happiness.

Persistent, sensitive, and cautious brain types

Persistent brain types pursue their goals with tenacity and are most happy being in charge (via mindbodygreen). These individuals thrive on familiarity and routine, whereas a lack of structure or changing rules will deplete their happiness. As a result, these individuals tend to worry and ruminate, plus they may be more susceptible to developing obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Those with a sensitive brain type demonstrate heightened brain activity within the limbic system — the brain region responsible for emotion and memory (via Khan Academy). These deeply empathetic individuals are happiest when listening to music, talking with a close friend, walking in nature, or engaging in mindfulness behaviors (via mindbodygreen). Bright lights, noise, and socializing at large gatherings can negatively impact their mood.

With increased activity in the amygdala and basal ganglia, the cautious brain is the last type. These folks are motivated and dependable and enjoy making lists and completing tasks early, and thrive on feelings of security (via mindbodygreen). Chaos, an overwhelming workload, or watching negative news can decrease happiness, while increasing feelings of anxiety.

By being aware of your brain type, you can actively engage in activities that boost your happiness and overall quality of life.