The pursuit of human happiness can be tripped by stress, financial trouble or chronic illness. Now, a researcher is trying to find the happiness gene, which may be partially responsible for a positive outlook.
Yoram Barak, a Tel Aviv University (TAU) researcher, is engaged in the "attempt to find the happiness gene, the genetic component of happiness", which may be 50 percent responsible for an optimistic outlook.
Initial research findings have made Barak optimistic about his ability to succeed. "If something is genetic, it should have a large concordance among twins," he said.
"And the twin studies we are looking at show that 50 percent of happiness is genetically determined." Barak is now working with Anat Achiron of the Sheba Medical Centre to identify the specific genes that are associated with happiness.
"We may be a long way off from being able to genetically engineer happiness," Barak said, "but we can start by thinking positively. Much of his work is based on positive psychology, which is the "fastest and largest growing area of psychology in the US - and in the world," he said.
For the 50 percent of happiness that is not genetic, Barak is working on a program of positive psychology workshops, with exercises he recently tested in a one-day workshop for 120 participants at the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Israel.
Early results indicate that the workshops improved the happiness level of participants by as much as 30 percent, said a TAU release.