Is happiness genetic?

Jul 19, 2017

Researchers define happiness as consisting of two components: having a sense that your life is good and having relatively frequent happy experiences. But what if genetics determined how happy you feel on a day-to-day basis?

We examine health and happiness this week on “Take Care” as part of an hour-long special broadcast airing this weekend. First, we speak to professor Sonja Lyubomirsky, professor of psychology and author of “The How of Happiness” and “The Myths of Happiness,” about how -- when it comes to being happy -- some of us have a head start.

Some people are generally happier than others and research shows that it comes naturally.

“Researchers actually have pursued this question very systematically and that research suggests that there is clearly a genetic component to happiness,” Lyubomirsky says.

If you see happiness as a pie chart, it consists of genetics, circumstances and intentional activities, according to Lyubomirsky. Some people have what you could call a large pie chart, and others a small pie chart.

“We can infer from the research that happiness does have a set range,” Lyubomirsky says. “People can certainly move within that set range and that range can be fairly large. But it's going to be really, really hard for someone to move higher than their set point or outside of their set range. They’re going to have to work a lot harder at it.”

You’ll hear more about health and happiness tomorrow and Friday on “Morning Edition.” Tomorrow, what rewiring your brain could do for your happiness. On Friday, we'll look at how happiness can impact our health.

You can tune in this Saturday at 6 a.m. and Sunday at 6 p.m. for the full hour-long special from “Take Care,” WRVO’s health and wellness show.

Support for this story comes from The Health Foundation for Western and Central New York.