There are those who tend to be cheerful and those who attract emotional storms. Why are these differences in what we could call the ability to be happy?
Some people show a predisposition to happiness from birth. Joyful, vital, and laughing children who grow up to be optimistic, energetic, and resilient adults. Those who do not belong to this fortunate category may wonder: how do they do it? Is happiness hereditary and they have won the genetic lottery? This is the question we will try to answer next.
The interest in studying the origin of happiness has been going on for decades. And this is the highest aspiration of all human beings: to achieve a high level of subjective well-being. However, the satisfaction with life varies greatly from person to person, making certain individuals more vulnerable to anxiety, depression, or apathy. The latest scientific findings shed some light on this.
Happiness is hereditary
After several investigations, it has been concluded that, in effect, happiness has a genetic component. Some findings have linked the so-called serotonin transporter gene (5-HTTLPR) with this subjective feeling of happiness. Thus, it has been found that those who present a certain version of this gene report greater life satisfaction.
In addition, this characteristic has also been associated with differences in emotional processing between some people and others. In this way, the tendency to selectively process positive or negative emotional stimuli is determined, this being able to influence the vulnerability to depression and the maintenance of this pathology.
On the other hand, some research has found that certain genetic variants are related to subjective well-being, depressive symptoms, and neuroticism. In other words, a predisposition to certain moods is already marked in our DNA.
How do life events affect?
Although it seems to have been clear that happiness is hereditary to some extent, our genes would only determine it by 50%.
This tendency with which we are born determines a basal level of happiness that varies from one individual to another and is the one we return to after experiencing unusual events. And we tend to think that our recent breakup will make us unhappy forever or that winning the lottery would make us whole, but this is not the case.
Some studies have been carried out with people who have experienced shocking events that, at first glance, should have a huge influence on their happiness: having won the lottery or being paraplegic after an accident. Paradoxically, the happiness of these individuals lasted only a few months, practically returning to its baseline with the passage of time. And it is that the specific events that we live in seem to have an influence of just 10%.
The environment has a great influence
What is the conclusion we can get from all of the above? That a large part of our ability to be happy is acquired; that is, you learn. And it is that the remaining 40% depends on the environment that has surrounded us as we grow and on our ability to build our own happiness.
Those children who have grown up subjected to abuse or trauma show a significant tendency to experience negative moods even during adulthood; the same is true of those who have grown up with depressed parents or have experienced a very early loss. But it is not necessary to go to such dramatic cases, since the upbringing received influences our life satisfaction.
As children, we develop patterns of thought, emotion, and behavior that we tend to repeat throughout life. We learn to be negative or optimistic, to feel grateful or unhappy, and to be resilient or trapped in sadness. For this reason, many of the adults who are happy today are happy because, from an early age, they received the tools to be so.
But what about those who did not have that fortune? Fortunately, we can always exercise happiness. In the same way that we learned to think, feel and behave in one way, we can unlearn these patterns and replace them with others.
Training gratitude and optimism, improving our life habits, and taking care of our internal dialogue are some measures to influence the part or percentage that we can do it. Ultimately, happiness is hereditary in a certain part, but it is not a sentence.