Some individuals appear to be born with a more blissful, carefree temperament, and study shows that — sure — your happiness may be found in your DNA. But only in part.
Your genes make up around 40% of your happiness, says Susan Zinn, a psychologist in Santa Monica, California.
But it doesn’t imply you’re doomed to be miserable if you haven’t been born with particular genes. We can redirect our minds to happiness entirely since 60 percent of bliss is linked to lifestyle and other environmental variables.
Learn how your genetic making helps satisfy your life and how you may enhance emotions of pleasure and well-being regardless of what your genetic sequence would say about you.
Types of happiness
Happiness is typically determined by three main components:
- Life satisfaction. This is usually linked to positive emotions based on past, present, and projected future experiences. Specifically, your past can influence future life satisfaction by how you frame the future in your mind. For instance, if you suffered from trauma in the past, then you may think your future will not be satisfying because you envision worst-case scenarios.
- Feeling engaged with what you do every day. Be it at work, in relationships, or in your leisure time, it’s important to feel invested in the people you spend time with, your career, or hobbies.
- Having meaning and purpose in life. This may be described as feeling that what you do in life is important, that you have goals or aspirations, or perhaps what you do helps others.
Related: What is the Purpose of Your Life?
Is there a happiness gene?
Research indicates that we can inherit many traits including optimism, self-esteem, and happiness. So by that logic, yes, there are genes that may predispose you to a happier disposition.
For example, a 2011 study found promising evidence that people with a certain form of the gene called 5-HTTLPR reported higher life satisfaction.
And a landmark study in 2016 that formally linked happiness to genetics involved the DNA of nearly 300,000 people. The researchers pinpointed three specific genetic variants associated with well-being. But they also found that these genetic variations weren’t the only factor. An interplay of genetics and environment also contributed to happiness.
Can you learn to be happier?
Despite your genetic makeup, there are ways you can learn to be happier, even in difficult times. Other traits, such as resilience, can be cultivated over time. You have a choice. It’s no different than deciding what to wear or what food to order. When it comes to happiness, there’s a lot we can do about it.
One way to achieve a happier state is to let go of a quest for perfectionism that focuses only on the end goal of success. Linking happiness with perfectionism and success is common in American culture, but it leads you to concentrate on the summit of what you want to achieve rather than the journey of what happens along the way.
Here are some other practical ways to choose happiness:
- Volunteer. Doing something for others takes the focus off of yourself and can make you feel good, according to 2020 research. Even if you can’t make a regular commitment to volunteer, think of small things you can do to help others, such as picking up groceries for someone not able to get them on their own.
- Exercise. Physical activity isn’t just helpful for your body — it’s also great for your mind, Zinn says. Movement helps to release the feel-good chemical dopamine. Current federal guidelines recommend 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week, which breaks down to 30 minutes, five days a week.
- Nutrition. A healthy diet can have a huge effect on your self-confidence, health, and subsequent happiness. If you’re wondering what type of foods to eat, a 2012 study found a plant-based diet can improve your mood. Moreover, the DASH diet and Mediterranean diet come highly recommended by nutritionists.
- Get out in nature. Nature helps you to feel humbled by what’s around you, reduces stress, and helps you feel more connected to the world, which can lead to higher life satisfaction Zinn says.
- Show gratitude and practice kindness. One way to do this is to keep a kindness jar with a notepad and pen nearby. Everyone at home can write down the kind acts they have done in a given week or that others have done for them. At the end of the week, you can choose what to do with the items in the jar, such as reading them aloud.
- Laugh. People who can find humor in even the darkest or craziest of circumstances are often able to boost their happiness.
- Tune in to meaning and spirituality. Mindfulness meditation, religion, believing in a higher power, or a connection to a higher consciousness may help give a greater feeling of purpose in life.