A human brain with a frown, sitting on the desk and showing what part of the brain causes depression

What part of the brain causes depression? What’s the difference between the right and left side of the brain?

Author Mo Gawdat explains that a processing error in the brain occurs when we use the wrong side of our brain to process information. Overusing the left side of the brain can cause you to overanalyze things and block emotions, which leads to depression.

Read more to learn why left-brain dominance can cause mental health problems.

Using the Wrong Side of Your Brain

Gawdat says the left and right sides of our brains have different functions and ways of solving problems—the left side is critical and analytical, and the right side is intuitive and creative. What part of the brain causes depression? That would be the left side when overused.

The left side helps us solve problems, set goals, plan, and so on. The right side helps us build and maintain relationships, feel emotions, appreciate art, play, and be curious. Put simply, the left brain deals with the tangible while the right brain deals with the intangible. Gawdat explains that both sides are important, but unhappiness occurs when we overuse the left side of our brain and underuse the right side of our brain. 

(Shortform note: While Gawdat explains that being left-brain-dominant—more critical and analytical than intuitive and creative—can cause unhappiness, research suggests that things aren’t so straightforward. It’s true that the left brain houses critical and analytical abilities and that the right houses creative and intuitive abilities, but studies show that there’s no such thing as being left-brain- or right-brain dominant—brain scans show nearly equal activity on both sides regardless of whether a person is stereotypically left- or right-brained. So rather than interpreting Gawdat’s discussion scientifically, it may be more accurate to consider it as a metaphorbalance your analytical abilities with your intuitive abilities.)

There are a few reasons why left brain dominance causes unhappiness. 

First, overusing the left side of your brain causes you to overanalyze things—this leads you to ruminate and create problems that aren’t there. For example, if your boss had an exasperated tone, you might overuse the left side of your brain and spend the day wondering why and if you did something wrong. This approach causes unnecessary stress and anxiety, which leads to unhappiness. Instead, you could use the right side of your brain to empathize—realize that your boss probably just had a stressful day. Instead of catastrophizing with your left side, you could use your right side rationale to extend kindness and ask if there’s anything you can do to help.

(Shortform note: Gawdat argues that left-brain-dominant people tend to overanalyze things and make themselves unhappy. However, research shows that this trait may be more common in creatives—those who would be considered right-brain-dominant. This is because highly creative people tend to have a big imagination, which enhances their ability to detect areas of concern that may or may not become an actual threat.)

Second, says Gawdat, overusing the left side of your brain blocks your intuition and emotions. This can cause you to make poor decisions that undermine your happiness. For example, overusing your left brain might cause you to leave a job where you’re fulfilled and financially stable for a job you hate but that pays more—a decision that ultimately makes you unhappy in life. Or, you may distance yourself from a person you love because you feel your emotions will hinder your progress at work—which leaves you unhappy and always wondering “what if.”

(Shortform note: While Gawdat argues that overusing your left brain makes you unhappy because it blocks your emotions, Shawn Achor explains that doing the opposite—overusing your right brain and making emotional decisions—can make you just as unhappy. In The Happiness Advantage, Achor explains that when you face stress, it’s easy to allow your emotions to take control of your mind. When this happens, your decision-making, problem-solving, and communication skills are hindered and you lose control over things like your relationships, motivation, and health.)

Ultimately, Gawdat says that to be successful and happy, you must use the right side of your brain before solely acting on what your logical left side tells you. 

How Left Brain Dominance Leads to Depression

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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