What really makes you truly happy? Is it a pleasing ambience? Is it your comfortable financial situation? Could it lie in the tub of your favorite ice cream or your latest iphone? Or could it be just your mood?
There is no doubt that different people find happiness in disparate things. But who could ever have imagined that how we experience happiness could be linked to a thing called the human genome. So, what really is a human genome? A genome is a storehouse of an organism’s complete set of DNA which includes all its genes. Thus, each genome comprises all the information required for the building and maintenance of that organism. In humans, every cell that has a nucleus contains a copy of the entire genome which comprises more than a mind – boggling 3 billion DNA base pairs.
Following an intensive study of the phenotypes in the DNA of over 298,000 individuals, Dutch scientists made a historical breakthrough when they isolated three genetic variants for happiness in the human genome which essentially decide how we interpret happiness or our predisposition towards this emotion. Phenotypes are the traits or observable characteristics which include behavior, biochemical properties, color, shape, size etc which develop in an organism as a result of the interaction between its environment and its genotype, in other words its total genetic inheritance.
The researchers took a holistic approach to the study by also quizzing the participants about how happy they felt about life, whether they had experienced any symptoms of depression whilst also studying if physical traits such as body mass index and smoking could influence our moods. Five physical risk factors which could precipitate negative health outcomes which in turn can influence moods, namely smoking, body mass index (BMI), fasting blood sugar, triglyceride levels, and coronary artery disease were also taken into consideration for the study.
It was revealed that feelings of depression, neuroticism and happiness are influenced by the same set of genes as expressed in the pancreatic system, adrenal glands and the central nervous system. Simply put, what this study reveals is that our sense of general well being and positive or negative attitudes towards life are rooted in inherent genetic variations. Clearly, our surly or cheerful attitudes to life cannot be attributed to a single factor but our genes do play a powerful role in how we navigate through life.