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Archive for January 7th, 2008

One dominant belief in well-being and happiness research revolves around the idea that we all have a “set point” happiness level. That is, through genetics and early development we establish a stable platform of happiness or unhappiness that doesn’t change much during adulthood. Major life events can cause us to move us away from that set-point, but we generally return to it over time. It is who we are.

New research, however, is tweaking or challenging that belief.

Some say adults can show large changes in life satisfaction over time and it’s permanent.

Researchers in Australia, for example, looked at responses from a long-term German survey which seemed to show that that the people most likely to record large changes in life satisfaction are those who scored high on the personality traits of extraversion and/or neuroticism.

What can we conclude?

For most of us, happiness levels probably remain stable over time. We are who we are. However, for some people, happiness levels change dramatically and remain changed, perhaps in large part because of their personality. If you are an extroverted or neurotic person, you may be more likely to change your happiness — positively or negatively — over time. If nothing else, being aware of that potential may be an important self-discovery.

Source: The Set-Point Theory of Well-Being: Negative Results and Consequent Revisions. Bruce Heady. Social Indicators Research, Vol. 85, Number 3, (2008)

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