The rates of anxiety, depression, and self-harm are increasing worldwide. Are we destined to be unhappy despite advances in psychology?
⁇ Article An influencer found published in the General Psychology Review in 2005 found that 50% of people’s happiness is due to their genes, 10% to their circumstances and 40% to “intentional actions” (basically, whether you are positive or not).
This so-called “Happiness Pie” puts positive psychology followers in the driver’s seat, allowing them to decide their own path to happiness. (If you are unhappy, the unspoken message is that you are the cause.)
The term “Happiness Pie” has been widely criticized for being based on assumptions about genes that have been tarnished. For decades, behavioral geneticists have studied twins and found that genetics explain 40% to 50% of the differences in their happiness, which is why this ratio appears in the “happiness pie”.
Behavioral geneticists use a statistical technique to estimate genetic and environmental factors based on people’s family relationships, and then use twins in their studies.
In response to criticism of the 2005 paper, the authors themselves wrote a research paper in 2019 that happily offered a more nuanced approach to the influence of genes that identified the interactions between our genes and our environment.
Nature and breeding
The researchers said that nature and nutrition are not mutually exclusive. Conversely, molecular genetics, the study of the structure and function of genes at the molecular level, shows that they are constantly influencing each other.
Genes influence the behavior that helps people choose their environment. For example, extraversion from parents to children helps children build their friendly groups.
Similarly, the environment changes gene expression. For example, when mothers expect to starve, their children’s genes change accordingly, resulting in chemical changes that suppress growth factor production. This has led to babies being born smaller than normal and with conditions such as heart disease.
It is pointed out that nature and nutrition are interrelated and constantly influence each other. This is why two people who grew up in the same environment may react differently, meaning that the behavioral genetic assumption of the same environment is no longer valid.
The researchers also explained that whether people can be happier depends on their “environmental sensitivity” – their ability to change. Some people are victims of their environment, so they can significantly change their thoughts, feelings, and behavior in response to negative and positive events.
So when they attend a workshop on wellness or read a book on positive psychology, they may move through it and experience a significant change compared to others – the change will last longer.
But no positive psychological intervention will work for all people, because we are as unique as our DNA, and we have different abilities for well-being and its fluctuations throughout life.
Are we doomed to be unhappy? Some may struggle more to improve their well-being than others, and that struggle means they will be unhappy for longer. In extreme cases, they will never experience high happiness.
However, others who are more genetically flexible, that is, more sensitive to the environment, have a greater potential for change, and their well-being and perhaps prosperity can be enhanced if they adopt a healthier lifestyle and choose to live it. Work in an environment that enhances their happiness and ability to thrive.
But genetics does not define who we are, although it does play an important role in our well-being. Choices about where we live, who we live with, and how we lead our lives affect our happiness and the happiness of future generations.
The report was prepared in partnership with Jolanta Burke, Senior Lecturer at the Center for Positive Psychology and Health at the RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences.
Source: Science Alert
Prone to fits of apathy. Unable to type with boxing gloves on. Internet advocate. Avid travel enthusiast. Entrepreneur. Music expert.