A new study examines how personality influences personal happiness, with the not surprising finding that people who view the glass as half full are happier.
Alternatively, people who focus on negative past experiences and regrets are less sanguine.
According to the authors, the study helps explain why personality has such a strong influence on a person’s happiness. The findings suggest that persons with certain personality traits are happier than others because of the way they think about their past, present and future.
Researchers looked at how people scored on five personality traits related to their view of time and life satisfaction.
The study examines the individual perception of being extraverted, neurotic, open, conscientious and agreeable. Researchers then rate individuals as high or low on each personality trait rather than assigning them a personality type.
“We found that highly extraverted people are happier with their lives because they tend to hold a positive, nostalgic view of the past and are less likely to have negative thoughts and regrets.
“People high on the neurotic scale essentially have the exact opposite view of the past and are less happy as a result,” said Dr. Ryan Howell, assistant professor of psychology at San Francisco State University.
“This is good news because although it may be difficult to change your personality, you may be able to alter your view of time and boost your happiness,” Howell said.
The authors suggest that savoring happy memories or reframing painful past experiences in a positive light could be effective ways for individuals to increase their life satisfaction.
Numerous studies over the last 30 years have suggested that personality is a powerful predictor of a person’s life satisfaction. The latest findings help explain the reason behind this relationship.
“Personality traits influence how people look at the past, present and future and it is these different perspectives on time which drive a person’s happiness,” Howell said.
In the study, more than 750 participants completed surveys about their personality, life satisfaction and “time perspective.” The latter concept is used to describe if a person is past, present or future orientated.
To assess time perspective, participants were asked such questions as whether they enjoy reminiscing about the “good old days” or whether they believe their future is determined by themselves or by fate.
People’s view of the past had the greatest effect on life satisfaction. Extraverts, who are energetic and talkative, were much more likely to remember the past positively and be happier as a result.
People high on the neurotic scale, which can mean being moody, emotionally unstable and fretful, were more likely to have an anguished remembrance of the past and to be less happy.
The new study is published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.
Source: San Francisco State University