Happiness is the golden fleece that we all chase in life, and as such there are guides aplenty on how we can better obtain this most elusive elixir.
A new study suggests that the path to happiness may rest upon our individual acting abilities. The study, which compiled surveys of participants in the United States, China, the Philipines, Japan and Venezuela, suggests that the key to happiness is in acting extroverted, even if we're actually introverted naturally.
The finding seems a peculiar one, yet across each survey in each country, participants revealed that they generally felt happier and more positive each day when they either were extroverted, or they acted in such a way.
What's more, the study, which was published in the Journal of Research in Personality, also revealed that participants were happier and more upbeat when they were free.
The researchers believe this is the first study that highlights the role extroverted behaviours play in our outlook and wellbeing, especially in countries that traditionally have a more collectivist and group orientated culture, such as those often found in South America and Asia.
“Cross-cultural psychologists like to talk about psychic unity.
Despite all of our cultural differences, the way personality is organized seems to be pretty comparable across cultural groups.
There is evidence to show that 40 to 50 percent of the variation in personality traits has a genetic basis,” the researchers explain.
As interesting as the findings are, they are not the first to come to such a conclusion. For instance, one from 2002 found that extroverted behaviours, such as being adventurous and talkative, exhibiting high energy levels and so on, made people feel a lot happier, even when those behaviours were only exhibited for 10 minutes each day. What's more, the phenomenon was shown to be just the same for introverts as it was for extroverts.
“We tend to look at the external world for being responsible for our happiness — good things happen to us and then we get happy.
What’s exciting about this is that it brings attention to the role we have in our own happiness.
All you have to do is act extraverted and you can get a happiness boost,”researchers said at the time.
Willing ourselves to be happy
It's a fascinating finding, especially as it advocates the positive impact of behaviours that a good chunk of us (i.e. the introverted) would normally find quite challenging. Is it really possible to be happier even when doing things that we would not normally do?
I wrote in a recent blog about the positive impact of talking and generally engaging with strangers during our normal day, whether at the supermarket or on the train to work. It emerged that striking up a conversation with a stranger would brighten the day of all participants, whether extroverted or introverted.
Maybe there is something in it after all, and we should all try being a little more 'dog', if only for 10 minutes a day.
So, whether you’re an introvert, extravert or ambivert, try smiling at a stranger or calling an old friend and feeling the difference.