What Makes People Happy? Genes—and Gender—May Play a Role

Father and son watching soccer

If you’ve ever wondered what makes people happy, the answer may lie in a newly discovered gene that seems to influence happiness. 

In a study, published in the journal Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry, researchers found that both men and women have the “happiness gene.” However, while a low-activity version was linked to greater happiness in women, men with that type saw no boost in their mood. Researchers suspect testosterone might be the reason men are immune to the gene’s powers of happiness.

As a guy, is it time to give up on happiness in life? Not yet. There’s more than one gene on the road to happiness. Scientists have also found that our DNA accounts for only 35 to 50 percent of our good moods—our experiences in life still play a large part.

It may be too late to change your DNA, but there are many other things you can do to get happy—right now:

  • Choose. More than just wishing, you need to choose the activities and attitudes that lead to happiness. This includes the people you hang out with.
  • Exercise. From the runner’s high to walking in the woods, exercise can boost your mood. Even yoga can take the edge off the blues.
  • Laugh. Many changes happen in your body when you crack up at a joke or a sitcom, such as spikes in “feel-good” chemicals and a drop in the stress hormone cortisol.
  • Meditate. Something as simple as focusing on your breath for a few minutes a day can wipe away stress that’s preventing you from being happy.

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