The secret of happiness is a fascinating and complex subject, and there are many theories about what factors underlie it and how we can achieve it. In this article, we will explore the influence of genetics on happiness and psychological well-being.
First, it is important to understand that happiness is a complex emotional state that cannot be easily measured. There is no single key to unlock the secret of happiness. In fact, happiness can be influenced by many factors, such as our interpersonal relationships, our mental and physical health, our environment, our experiences and, of course, our genetics. Genetics can influence our tendency to experience various emotions. This includes the tendency to experience states with a high positive emotional charge, such as happiness. Therefore, to discover the secret of happiness and how to achieve it, it is important to take into account genetic factors and how they affect the way we behave and perceive the world.
But what is the secret of happiness, and is it really in our hands to achieve it, or is it factors beyond our control that determine what levels of happiness we can aspire to?
The influence of genetics on happiness
Research suggests that happiness is moderately influenced by genetics. In fact, some recent studies have concluded that the secret to happiness may lie, in part, in our DNA. Moreover, that there is a genetic basis behind each person’s tendency to experience certain levels of happiness, psychological well-being and life satisfaction. In other words, our ability to experience contentment and the secret of happiness may be, to some extent, inheritable.
Research also suggests that a significant percentage of this heritability can be explained by genetic factors related to personality. People with high neuroticism show a lower tendency to experience happiness and extroverted people show a higher tendency. This means that part of the individual differences in happiness can be explained by genetic causes. So genetics has an effect on happiness and life satisfaction both directly and through personality traits. However, this does not mean that the secret of happiness is entirely genetically determined. Rather, there are many other factors, environmental and personal, that also play an important role.
Although there is still much research to be done on how genetics modulates happiness, there are now tools, such as the Mendel Brain Emotional Well-Being DNA Test, that allow us to know our genetic tendency to experience positive emotions, emotional well-being, as well as our psychological resilience in the face of adversity.
But what does this mean for us? Does it mean that the secret of happiness is purely genetic? Can’t we do anything to be happy if our genetics say otherwise? Definitely not! Although genetics may influence our tendency to experience certain emotions, including happiness, it does not determine us.
Finding the secret to happiness and achieving psychological well-being
There are many things we can do to improve our happiness and psychological well-being, even if our genetics have given us a tendency to be less happy. Firstly, it is important to remember that happiness is an emotional state that can be influenced by our actions and habits. The little things we do every day, such as connecting with friends and family, exercising, meditating or enjoying a hobby we love, can have a big impact on our overall happiness and well-being.
In addition, it is important to recognise that genetics is not the only secret ingredient to happiness. Our life and experiences also play an important role. For example, people who have experienced trauma in their lives or who are exposed to severe conflict may have more difficulty experiencing states of happiness, regardless of their genetics.
How to be happy with oneself?
It must be remembered that there is no magic formula and no single “secret to happiness”. Achieving happiness in general, understood as a state of joy or intense positive emotions, is an unrealistic goal that can generate a lot of frustration. On the contrary, it is important to work every day to improve our psychological well-being, that is, to take actions that allow us to: be good with ourselves; be more aligned with our motivations and way of being; learn to improve our emotional balance and management; and even improve our physical health.
Don’t forget that, although it is always important to work to improve, the secret to happiness lies in self-knowledge, self-acceptance and self-compassion.
In short, happiness and psychological well-being are complex concepts that are influenced by many factors – environmental, personal, genetic, etc. While genetics may affect our ability to experience happiness, there are
Why is World Happiness Day celebrated?
Since 2013, the International Day of Happiness has been celebrated on 20 March. This date was established by the UN with the aim of raising awareness among the general population and the governments of different countries about the importance of certain issues related to the well-being, health or rights of citizens. The resolution that initiated the celebration was proposed by Bhutan, a country that prioritises Gross National Happiness over Gross National Product.
Happiness is a universal aspiration of all human beings and, although, as we have seen, it is influenced by personal or even genetic factors, the truth is that environmental and contextual factors play a very important role in the ability of individuals in a society to achieve certain levels of happiness.
Happiness is currently under serious threat in many parts of the world due to conflict, pandemics and famine or shortages of various kinds. There is therefore a need for global collaboration and a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth.
Clearly, the International Day of Happiness is just one day, and it is not enough to address all the challenges facing our societies. However, this celebration allows organisations around the world that fight for human rights to mobilise to raise awareness among citizens and is also a way to give a wake-up call to all world leaders to strive to create measures so that equality, well-being and happiness can become an everyday reality.
Røysamb, E., Nes, R. B., Czajkowski, N. O., & Vassend, O. (2018). Genetics, personality and wellbeing. A twin study of traits, facets and life satisfaction. Scientific reports, 8(1), 12298. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-29881-x
Ward J, Lyall L, Cullen B, et al. A Genome-Wide Association Analysis of Happiness: Consistent Genetic Effects Across the Lifespan and Across Genetic Ancestries in Multiple Cohorts. bioRxiv; 2022. DOI: 10.1101/2022.04.05.487098.