Small Personality Changes Can Lead to More Happiness

The correlation only works for positive personality changes

By Tudor Vieru on March 6th, 2012 00:11 GMT

A team of experts in the United Kingdom found in a new study that people who go through small, positive personality changes over the course of their lives find it easier to be happy. A boost of happiness obtained in this manner trumped all others.

What this means is that individuals declared themselves happier after they had gone through such a change than after they got a promotion at the workplace, started making more money, or married.

This investigation basically suggests that happiness originating within the individual is the best kind, and also that it can easily be told apart from temporary satisfaction obtained from other sources.

While many scientists believe that personalities cannot really change all that much over time, the new investigation shows that that is indeed possible. Some people use the perceived inability to change as an excuse to engage in illegal or antisocial behaviors, AlphaGalileo reports.

The study was carried out by scientists at the University of Michigan, who worked closely together with colleagues from the London School of Economics and Political Sciences (LSE). A paper detailing the findings appears in the latest issue of the journal Social Indicators Research.

As a side-note, British Prime Minister David Cameron recently argued that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) should not be considered the most significant indicator to the nation's happiness, as economists have been arguing for decades.

Worldwide, a growing body of research shows that economic prosperity has very little to do with personal satisfaction and happiness, despite what economists would have us believe. The entire economic model is based on false assumptions, such as that people always make rational decisions.

“We found that our personalities can and do change over time – something that was considered improbable until now – and that these personality changes are strongly related to changes in our wellbeing,” Dr. Chris Boyce explains.

The expert, who is based at the University of Manchester School of Psychological Sciences, was the lead author of the research paper. Up to 35 percent of individual differences in life satisfaction are accounted for by personality changes, past studies have shown.

“Compared with external factors, such as a pay rise, getting married or finding employment, personality change is just as likely and contributes much more to improvements in our personal wellbeing,” he further explains.

“Our research suggests that governments could measure ‘national personality’; for example, whether the population is becoming more extroverted, conscientious, open to experience, and agreeable, and how this links to national events,” Dr. Boyce adds.

“Fostering the conditions where personality growth occurs – such as through positive schooling, communities, and parenting – may be a more effective way of improving national wellbeing than GDP growth,” he concludes after reviewing a survey covering the behaviors of about 7,100 people.
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