Leah Berenson
Leah Berenson
February 13, 2024 ·  3 min read

A Neuroscientist Reveals the Most Important Choice You Can Make in Life

We all have different ideas about where our happiness comes from. For some, it comes from a happy childhood, others feel their happiness comes from their relationship or lack thereof. Your career, hobbies, how you spend your money, all of these could be sources of a person’s happiness. But what if these aren’t the most important decisions you could be making to really be happy?

Neuroscientist Explains The Key To Happiness


According to Moran Cerf, a neuroscientist from Northwestern University who has been studying decision-making for over a decade, the surest way to maximize happiness has nothing to do with experiences, material goods, or personal philosophy [1]. For Cerf, it’s about who you spend time with that has the biggest impact on your happiness. 

He states that we put too much stock into the decisions that we make because we believe it will directly impact our happiness, when really, the biggest impact on our happiness comes from social cues. According to Cerf, making decisions is too tiring and so we don’t have sufficient mental energy to devote to all the decisions we have to make in a day.

Rather, it’s the people we choose to keep around us can directly impact our moods, behaviors, and ultimately, our happiness. Not convinced? Keep reading.


Cerf discerned, using neuroscience, that when two people are together, their brainwaves sync up and begin to look identical. One study of moviegoers [2] showed that the most engaging trailers produced similar brain patterns in people’s brains.

“The more we study engagement, we see time and again that just being next to certain people actually aligns your brain with them,” based on their mannerisms, the smell of the room, the noise level, and many other factors, Cerf said. “This means the people you hang out with actually have an impact on your engagement with reality beyond what you can explain. And one of the effects is you become alike.”


Much like our brain patterns begin to match with someone we are with, our behavior will begin to mirror there’s as well. If we are around negative people, we feel our mood start to drop, even if we weren’t feeling particularly down about something. It works the other way too; people who are happy and upbeat bring us up, people who are introspective make us take a step back and see things differently, the list goes on and on.

How To Find Your Happiness

We can apply this method to our own lives. If you notice that those who are closest to you are always complaining about their job, their relationships, or just seem to always be in a negative mood, it might be time to create some distance between yourselves.

Surround yourself with people who can help you get to where you want to be in life. If you’re trying to be healthier, instead of hanging out with someone who has unhealthy habits maybe try becoming friends with someone who likes to play a sport or exercise. Even if you don’t do these activities together, you can feed off of each other’s energy and help yourself reach that goal that will make you happy.

Maybe you’re looking to stop spending money needlessly and start saving more. If you surround yourself with people are who are constantly going out for dinner or drinks, or are always shopping, try spending time with those who are more relaxed and like to have fun doing things at home or that are low budget.

If you’re trying to stop spending so much time in front of a screen, whether it’s at work, at home, or both, surround yourself with people who find joy in experiencing the world first hand instead of from behind a screen! You’ll start to develop your own habits and methods of avoiding screen time and gaining more time in the world.

Cerf’s concludes that if people want to happier and have less stress, they should create a life that requires them to make fewer decisions by surrounding themselves with people who embody the traits they prefer. Over time, they will naturally pick up those desirable attitudes and behaviors and be able to create their own happiness.


  1. https://www.businessinsider.com.au/neuroscientist-most-important-choice-in-life-2017-7
  2. https://academic.oup.com/jcr/article/44/1/160/2938969
  3. Image Source: https://arkus-dom.hr/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/sretna-starost.jpg