Does Our Happiness Really Depend On Our Genes? (pob-wotw)

in Proof of Brainlast month (edited)

We all persist in our pursuit of happiness. But we so seldom achieve it..

But why does this happen?

And why are some people happier and others less happy?

Maybe because each of us begins our journey to happiness from a different perspective.

It's hard to believe, but recent research by scientists and psychologists suggests that happiness is largely predetermined, since the ability to feel happiness depends largely on our genetic predisposition.

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According to studies, this dependence accounts for about 50% of the total level of perceived happiness. Just imagine: each of us is born with a certain basic level of happiness inherited from our biological mother, father, or both parents. Just as a propensity for obesity determines our figure or how inherited diseases affect our health, so our sense of happiness depends on a basic set of genes.

But does it?

I decided to examine this question more closely, since I, like everyone else, am very interested in the topic of happiness.

More than 30 years ago in psychology, the theory of attributes was developed. Attributes are innate features of the nervous system of man, which have a significant impact on the development of his abilities. By the mid-1990s, this theory became the dominant theory of happiness. But it always relied more on inferences than practical tests. Conclusions about the stability of happiness were drawn from studies that recorded only short-term effects of major life events. Personality traits have been investigated that link happiness to character traits that, are stable in adulthood.

Also, studies of twins who grew up apart from each other have shown that happiness is 40-50% genetic, and that, in the words of the famous American psychophysiologist David Likken – «trying to become happier may be as futile as trying to become taller.»

He came to this conclusion after conducting comparative studies of identical and fraternal twins over a decade since the early 1990s, which show that everyone is born with a certain «established value of happiness» (source). This is the basic level or potential for happiness, to which he is forced to return even after significant defeats or victories.

Setting theory is probably still the dominant theory in psychology, although the authentic happiness theory developed by positive psychologists is becoming increasingly influential. The attitude-value theory argues that long-term adult happiness is stable, it has a certain set value - because it depends mainly on genetic factors, including personality traits formed and manifested at an early age. It has been shown that important life events can temporarily change happiness levels, but that most people return to their previous set point value within a year or two.

Consider the results of several other studies on this topic.

Amsterdam Free University

The most outstanding scientific study on happiness in recent years was published last year by Professors Meike Bartels and Philip Koellinger (source) of the Amsterdam Free University.

It was successfully conducted with the help of 181 researchers from 145 scientific institutions, including medical centers in Rotterdam, Groningen, Leiden and Utrecht, as well as the universities of Rotterdam and Groningen. As a result of this large-scale international study involving more than 298,000 participants, scientists have identified, for the first time ever, those parts of the human genome that may explain why people experience happiness differently (the results are published in the journal Nature Genetics)

The researchers found three genetic variations in feelings of happiness, two variants that might explain differences in symptoms of depression, and eleven sites in the human genome that might explain varying degrees of neuroticism. The genetic variants of happiness are mainly expressed in the central nervous system, the adrenal glands, and the pancreas.

Professor Bartels suggests that happiness is determined by a combination of factors from the environment and genetics. She says, «Studies have shown that happiness is related to differences in DNA methylation. So it's not just genes and not just environment that are responsible for feelings of happiness, but an interaction between the two factors.»

Similarly, some people are more susceptible to depression. Professor Bartels notes – «The genetic overlap we found with depressive symptoms is also a breakthrough. It shows that happiness research can also offer new insights into the causes of one of the greatest medical problems of our time: depression

University of Edinburgh

British experts from the University of Edinburgh also claim that feelings of happiness are transmitted on a genetic level.

After studying 900 pairs of identical and non-identical twins, they were able to prove that a person's level of happiness is determined by his character traits. And this factor is largely influenced by genes (published in the journal Psychological Science).

Researchers asked volunteers, whose age ranged from 25 to 75 years, a series of questions about their character, how much they care and how satisfied they are with their lives. Researchers chose to interview people who were communicative and responsible and didn't have a habit of worrying. These three components were associated with feelings of happiness or well-being, as they serve as a kind of buffer in case a person finds himself in a stressful situation.

The difference in the results showed that genes may be responsible for at least half of the character traits that make people happy. «It's really quite surprising - genes control half of the personality traits that make people happy, while factors like relationships, health and career are responsible for the rest of our well-being» said Tim Bates, the researcher who led the study.

«An important implication is that personality traits such as sociability, calmness and reliability provide a resource we called the «affective reserve» that determines future happiness,» Bates said. According to him, people with positive inherited personality traits may, in fact, have a stockpile of happiness that can be used in times of stress. This emotional reserve is realized in times of disaster and accelerates a person's recovery.

The German socio-economic research panel SOEP

The German Socio-Economic Panel is a unique 25-year prospective study.(source)

The subject of the experts' study was the individual «happiness trend». People-respondents were asked to rate on a scale from "0" to "10" how happy they were with their lives. Then a person's score was compared with his or her own score, given over several years - experts take the level of happiness that people call it, and compare it with a whole set of other factors, such as age, gender, religion, health, income level, unemployment, and so on. Huge groups of volunteers take part in such experiments, and time after time noticeable correlations between happiness and some of these factors are revealed.

In particular, it has been revealed that a person's "degree of happiness" remains stable throughout his entire life. Certainly, some dramatic changes (birth of children, divorce, winning the lottery, serious illness) significantly change their evaluation in one direction or another, but very soon it returns to its previous average level. But this average is different for everyone.

SOEP experts confirm the validity of the conclusions of geneticists, who say that an individual "formula for happiness" depends on hereditary factors by 50 percent.

Several other studies also confirm this hypothesis.

British scientists conducted a large-scale experiment in which they studied the character traits of volunteers and simultaneously studied their DNA. As a result, they found that the predisposition to happiness or, conversely, to pessimism may be related to the work of the 5-HTT gene, which is responsible for transporting serotonin to the brain cells. It is the presence of this substance that produces a happy, elated mood. In the course of the experiment, it was discovered that people who had inherited the 5-HTT gene from both parents were twice less likely to complain about a bad mood.

Previously, American biochemists had found another gene responsible for happiness in women. It was the gene MAOA, which helps break down serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. According to studies, the higher the activity of this gene, the more happy and confident women feel. People with this gene variation experience all the good events in their lives with more pleasure and joy, while the hard ones are less dramatic, and they certainly feel happier, regardless of material life conditions and accomplishments.

So what makes us happy?

There is no single key to happiness, happiness is a very complex thing. And we, in fact, still do not know exactly how it works.

But there are several important components of this state.

The formula for happiness

The general structure of happiness can be expressed by the formula suggested by positive psychology and its famous representative Professor of Psychology Sonja Lyubomirsky, one of the leading positive psychologists in the world, author of several books, who has been researching the topic of happiness for over 20 years.

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In this structure, a person's perceived level of happiness is 50% determined by a biologically determined set of genes and early upbringing, 40% by our conscious actions and attitudes, and only 10% by the material level of life and external circumstances.

Although many people believe that it is external circumstances - health, money, career, their own home, lots of free time, good looks, a new place to live, etc., that bring them the long-awaited feeling of well-being.

Of course, external life circumstances (socio-demographic factors, environment, social class) influence our happiness - but that is only about 10%. Robert Biswas-Diner, an American psychologist, has studied how happy people in the most unfavorable social groups consider themselves to be, that is, people with serious incurable diseases, the homeless, and the unemployed. It turned out that people who feel unhappy were a minority in these groups.

So we have another 40% - this is the part of individual feeling of happiness that is not predetermined by heredity and is not related to circumstances, the part of happiness that we can influence. It is the result of conscious, intentional actions and attitudes in life that a person can choose for himself or herself.

This part has to do with our attitude toward ourselves and life, self-actualization, and relationships. And it largely depends on our thoughts, intentions and behaviors.

To overcome the influence of external factors, it is very important to have inner resilience and confident self-determination, close relationships with people, the right values and long-term goals, the progression to which is a pleasure. As well as having a meaning to life, a belief in something greater than oneself, whether it be religion, spirituality or some philosophy of life.

In this way, we can control our own subjective sense of well-being and make ourselves significantly happier without outstanding external achievements. After all, mental habits can be realized and changed, new behaviors can be learned, and ways of thinking can be transformed. And one can become much happier, contrary to heredity and life circumstances.

We don't have to take orders from our genes

Genetics is important. We need to accept that. But it is not the determining factor.

Are we condemned to do the bidding of our genes all the time? The answer is no. Sustained happiness is attainable regardless of genetics, if one is willing to work at it.

It is in our power to change the 40%. It requires some daily effort, a willingness to change, and determination. "The best thing you can do to provide yourself with positive emotions is to live sort of on top of the attitudes that are embedded in you, explains Professor Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania. - That is, I think you can increase a particular person's level of happiness by 10 to 15 percent

So, we see how complex the phenomenon of happiness is - there is no single method for increasing the level of happiness that would work for everyone. We are all different genetically. And everyone has different paths to happiness.

But this little study on the subject has helped me better understand the reason for my supernatural inner dissatisfaction, which has accompanied me all my life, regardless of external circumstances and my efforts to overcome it. And it may not be the main reason, but it can, indeed, have a great impact.

I hope this knowledge will be useful to someone else as well. I am grateful to the organizers of the Word Of The Week contest for the interesting topic and the opportunity to draw attention to this important issue in our lives.

And in closing, I address you in the words of Kurt Vonnegut: «People, please - notice when you are truly happy».:)


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Great to see an entry from you @alekst7 I always love it when I see you are in the mix...why? Because your writing makes me that bit happier😊I always learn something when I read YOU! This was a fascinating piece. It's like the old "nature/nurture" argument, except there is no real debate on the facts and there is also here the triad which includes SELF-ACTUALISATION! !LUV this. Although you show us at first a vision whereby it appears that we are stuck with a predetermined inherited genetic setting when it comes to happiness, we then realise through further studies that almost half of the input to happiness is what we make for ourselves. We are truly masters of our own destiny. It makes me believe that we should be going back to re-examine all old nature/nurture discussions which tend to view who we are and what we are capable of in the light of either a predetermined disposition to something or influenced by external forces. The power of the self, our own inquiring and intelligent minds. The resilience of individual human spirit, the intensity of passion and desire, and the application of fortitude and strength of spirit, deserve to take their place in the spotlight. !PIZZA. I wish you all the very best in the contest. In my view, you deserve to do very well ;-)

Thank you very much, I am glad that I was able to be useful to you in some way. I am very flattered by praise from such a Master as you) Your "Shadow of Light" is just a masterpiece, worthy of the best awards)


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🙏You flatter me ...we all just do our thing. Sometimes creativity flows, other times we have to nudge it a little...or a lot! lols. From where I stand, I am in awe of your writing. It never leaves me feeling .. just ok... I always get something meaningful from it. It's all relative and about perspective I guess. Sometimes we are just too close to our own writing to see the value we have in it🙏💗 so ... just lols accept you did a fab job here with your article ha ha, at least for what I got out of it, and I'm rooting for you! !LUV !PIZZA

Maybe. I found people from happier and open family got mostly happy kids.

Being more or less happy is just a matter of understanding what really makes us good (and this is absolutely not genetic at all).

How do you know that?)


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The income & environment is much more than 10%, if you live under the minimum wage and/or in a bad environment. These things can greatly contribute (boost) your unhappiness.

I speak from personal experience.

Greetings from Hungary.

And what importance do you think the factor of environment and material provision has for happiness?
Greetings from Ukraine)


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A clear and clean environment can make you happier, while the opposite of it can make you (more) unhappy or even (more) depressed. For example seeing a collapsed roof every day, which I do, as soon as I step out of the door, is something that I would rather not see. The roof of the neighborhood house is collapsed I do not even know when. Many houses are abandoned in this village.

Speaking about the environment, the weather and the climate can also do the same (make you happy/unhappy, or depressed), or even worse.

Wow, This is really one hell of back-end research you put here and it's totally worth it. Great work 😊👍. True Happiness is definitely a complex thing and not a single definition can comprehend its true meaning. And I agree with general structure of happiness, genetic and upbringing are major key players, I have experienced it in real life too. Activities and relationships can give a lot of ease in life. Have a good day 🙏. !PIZZA


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Thank you for your attention and understanding) I think you are quite a happy person)


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Hello.I like your writing, there is always something to learn if one has the desire and time to read.Happiness for me is a philosophical concept, it is specific to each individual in different periods of his life.Good job, I liked it very much.Good luck to you!

Hello) Thank you very much for your kind words) For me, it is very important..
Your blog shows that you are able to notice and appreciate the beauty of nature around us. I think it is an important part of your happiness)
I wish you aesthetic pleasure and creative success)


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That's right. For me, the little things in our daily lives that we don't notice make us feel good. I was happy to learn that there are users here who are good as knowledgeable and as people. They help people like me who don't know enough. You are also one of them.

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