Born happy? The link between happiness, personality and genes

image A new British study has shed more light on the genes/personality contribution to happiness. Genes may contribute up to 50% of the variance in happiness, and the new research suggests this genetic influence on happiness is essentially conveyed via personality.

Researchers using a representative sample of 973 twin pairs found that the heritable differences in happiness were pretty well explained by the differences in personality, particularly the dimensions of neuroticism, extraversion, and conscientiousness.

What does that mean for people who’d like to be a bit cheerier but may not have inherited the ideal personality? Co-researcher Tim Bates from University of Edinburgh said in an article on the study:

‘If people want to raise their own levels of well-being, our best advice is that they practice the kinds of behaviors that characterize calm, conscientious, extroverts…Try and be active and social, even if with just a few people. Practice the things you find emotionally challenging, maybe even keeping a diary to help you keep a sense of reality, and allow you to reflect on which strategies work, and which do not.’

Uh – does this all sound familiar? That’s because we’ve covered a lot of this ground in 101 Happiness Strategies.

To recap:

How to be happy – 11. Focus on what you can do to be happier

Genes – via personality – contribute at most 50% of happiness variance. That leaves a lot of wriggle room around the genetic stuff for boosting happiness.

How to be happy – 12. Make peace with your personality

Much of the personality influence works via the way people act – which is why Bates suggests we ‘practice the kinds of behaviors that characterize calm, conscientious, extroverts’. What you do affects how you feel.

How to be happy – 13. Act like you’re an extravert – even if you aren’t

Introverts who behave like extraverts are happier than those who don’t. Again, personality might be the premise, but it’s not the whole story. You drive the narrative.

How to be happy – 14. Concentrate on intentional factors

When you take into account that genes/personality might contribute 50% and external conditions another 10% to happiness, you’re left with a solid 40% up for grabs. That’s too much happiness potential to leave on the table while complaining about your personality shortcomings.

Happiness Life Strategy: Know your personality

Knowing your personality traits can help you make choices for happiness. For every personality profile there’s a situation that brings out the best – and the worst – in a person.

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4 Comments

  1. Lainie March 18, 2008
  2. Michele Connolly March 18, 2008
  3. Lainie March 19, 2008
  4. Michele Connolly March 19, 2008