The Neurobiology of Bliss

Guy Vincent
Beta Human
Published in
3 min readFeb 20, 2018


Research into orgasms and Tibetan monks on bliss show how we can experience bliss more often.

Waiting Bliss (2013), by Cameron Gray

Those precious moments of bliss are a significant state for making big decisions. By accessing bliss states, you can wire your brain to achieve desired outcomes. My research into bliss pointed towards two science-backed ways to experience bliss.

We’re all familiar with the bliss experience. A rush of joy, a loss of time, and then it ends. We’re snapped back into reality, and daily life resumes demanding our attention. I wanted to understand how these blissful moments work inside the brain, and what we can do to trigger them at will. The bliss experience is ephemeral, and they are beautiful because they are temporary.

Let’s start by looking at one of the highest rated blissful experiences out there: the orgasm. In observations of the brain in action, the right hemisphere lights up during orgasm. In one study, the right prefrontal cortex lit up like a bright island against the dark cortex.

This is a new discovery. Until recently, researched believed pleasure was the created by the left hemisphere. Recalling happy memories and meditating on loving feelings is the left brain at work. Also, the left brain is more active among people who are free of depression. Task-oriented people working towards their goals are better at keeping depression at bay. That’s the left brain at work.

Scientists predicted the left hemisphere would light up during an orgasm. Instead, it was silent. We now know that activating the left prefrontal cortex correlates with happiness. In the study, Tibetan Buddhist monks created the greatest measured spike in activity. By meditating on compassion, they achieved observable blissful states.

Practicing gratitude stimulates dopamine production in the brain

When a monk meditates on compassion, their left prefrontal cortex lights up. This is not the case for newcomers to meditation. When embarking on bliss research, many scientific studies pointed towards gratitude. Research suggests gratitude can improve sleep, romantic relationships, immune function, and boost happiness.

I wanted to know why the feeling lasts for such a short time, and if bliss must be temporary. Our brain chemistry has finite supplies of dopamine, so yes, bliss is temporary.

While we can’t exist full-time in a blissful state, we can trigger blissful states to get healthier. You already have everything you need inside your brain to experience bliss.

Gratitude is a natural antidepressant, and studies confirm this. When we take the time to ask what we are grateful for, certain neural circuits get activated. Our gratitude muscles get more of a workout when we ask what we are grateful for. In the midst of our busy lives, it’s important to acknowledge the revolving factors that bring us joy. Practicing gratitude creates new neural pathways and activates existing positive neural circuits.

Gratitude boosts your optimism over the long-term. Shawn Achor, a Harvard researcher and author of Before Happiness, thinks he has a solution:

Write down 3 things you’re grateful for, every day for 21 days in a row.

His research shows that higher levels of optimism will hold for six months. It also helped participants increase willpower, stay calm, and boost team morale. Not bad for a task that takes less than two minutes.

The goal of gratitude is to produce dopamine, which controls the reward centre of the brain. When you drink coffee, you receive a rush from caffeine. When you practice gratitude, you release dopamine, and feel rewarded. Regular practice hardwires your neural pathways for long-term feelings of contentment. By training your brain to release bliss-inducing chemicals, you can achieve desired states.

Choose to be grateful. It makes you more blissful, and you’ll live longer to enjoy more precious blissful moments.



Guy Vincent
Beta Human

Founder at Publishizer. Explorer at the nexus of technology, science, and human wellbeing.