Why Are Some People More Negative than others? Our genetics play a role

 In Focusing on the positive, Negative emotions, Relationships

You’ve probably noticed how some people in your life seem to be more upbeat and optimistic while others are constantly focused on all the things that go wrong.  I remember wondering why people are so different in their mindsets.  Was it just easier for some people to be positive?  Did they choose to be more pessimistic or more optimistic?  Could they change?

Then I learned about research on fraternal and identical twins that explored the factors that influence our ability to be positive.  It turns out that identical twins (twins who share the same DNA) have strikingly similar levels of positivity even if they were separated at birth and grew up with very different circumstances.  This did not apply to fraternal twins that by definition have different DNA.  After hundreds of these studies, scientists estimated that about 50% of our ability to “see the glass as half full” is due to our genetics!*

I think this is incredibly insightful and important research for everyone to know.  Suddenly we can understand that the attitudes and perspectives of our family members, coworkers, and friends are significantly affected by their genetics!  The way they interpret the world, their reaction to challenges, the events and situations they focus on are a big part of how they are wired.  This helped me to see that I should be less judgmental and more patient and accepting towards people who have a higher level of negativity than me. 

But there’s even more fascinating findings from this study.  Scientists also discovered that about 40% of our ability to be positive is due to how we think.  This is truly powerful because this means we have some control – we can take steps to build our positivity and change how we experience our lives.  The problem is that most people aren’t aware of this possibility.  The idea that we can train our minds to shift how we think is a relatively new concept in the science field. 

Interestingly, only about 10% of our positivity is influenced by our life circumstances.  Things like our health, where we live, our job, and our financial status have a much smaller impact than most people might think.

How could the results from this study change your view of other people in your life?

*”The How of Happiness” by Sonja  Lyubomirsky


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Tina Hallis, Ph.D. is Chief Positivity Officer of The Positive Edge, a company dedicated to helping people and organizations increase their positivity to improve the quality of people’s work lives and the quality of company cultures. She is certified in Positive Psychology, an authorized partner for Everything DiSC®, and a Professional Member of the National Speaker’s Association.

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