The Genetic Blueprint of Happiness: Chief Joy Officer Loka Pandya Uncovers the Influence of the Happiness Genes

By David Thompson

Sep 04, 2023 01:24 PM EDT

Loka Pandya(Loka Pandya) (Credit: Getty Image)

Is happiness in our genes? Can our genetic makeup determine our level of happiness? These intriguing questions have been the subject of much scientific inquiry.

Loka Pandya, the proclaimed Chief Joy Officer, delves into the fascinating world of happiness genes, shedding light on their influence on our emotional well-being.

Among the various genes associated with mood and emotional characteristics, two genes have been directly investigated in relation to happiness: 5-HTTLPR and MAO-A. 

The 5-HTTLPR gene is responsible for coding serotonin distribution in brain cells.  

Serotonin is the mood master, regulating our happy vibes. There are two versions of this gene, the long one (L) and the short one (S). The L version produces transporter-protein molecules that facilitate the transmission of serotonin in nerve cells. The S version leads to higher activity in the serotonin-dependent brain system that regulates mood and behavior. 

Each person inherits two alleles, or gene variants, from their parents, resulting in different combinations.

Some lucky folks have two S alleles, while others have one L and one S allele. And guess what? The ones with an L allele report a whopping 8% higher life satisfaction than the double S squad. Those who hit the genetic jackpot with two L alleles experience a mind-blowing 17% increase in life satisfaction compared to their single S allele counterparts.

It's like winning the happiness lottery!

The MAO-A gene, which is located on the X chromosome, has also been linked to happiness. This gene is responsible for regulating mood because it is able to catabolite neurotransmitters, namely serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline.

Studies have shown that the low-activity allele (MAO-A-L) is connected to undesirable traits like intoxication, violence, and antisocial behavior. It's noteworthy that studies have indicated that higher levels of self-reported pleasure in females are predicted by the MAO-A gene's low expression allele.

As enthralling as it is, the whole genetic-happiness connection seems hopeless as well, right? If my happiness (or sadness) is pre-determined by such small yet potent factors, then I cannot really help myself in dark times, can I?

Loka begs to differ.

He shows the other side of the picture, and rightly emphasizes that there are many other factors that play their part. So, blaming your genes for every sad moment is very unfair. Only 30-40% of the variation in happiness of a population is approximated to be caused by genetic differences. The other 60-70% comes from the unpredictability of our experiences and environment.

Therefore, if you're feeling gloomy, don't put the entire responsibility on your genes! 

The balance between nature and nurture is complex, and during the course of our lives, the significance of genetic factors can alter. Happiness genes do not have the final say, unlike genes that determine eye color or blood type. They just alter the likelihood of some outcomes.

Imagine them as the funny comedy show's directors who set the mood for laughter without prescribing every joke.

What is the final verdict, then?

Although it is obvious that our genetic makeup influences how we seek pleasure, it is not the only element. All of our genes are identical at birth, but the differences between them give each of us our distinct traits. When it comes to happiness, some fortunate people may get off to a head start while others may encounter greater obstacles. 

Loka says never surrender!

Neither to your genes nor to your environment.

Fight like a champion and laugh in the face of hardships that come between you and your true love - happiness. The ultimate control lies in our own hands; by leveraging that 60%-70% odds, we can influence happiness in our daily lives and connect with our inner joy. The key is to ensure small yet consistent doses of joyous activities.

Inspired? You can follow Loka on Instagram to learn more about joy and kickstart your happiness journey today.

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