For years, researchers have referred to what they call "The Big Five" as a model of the major traits of our personalities.
These traits, which admittedly cover a broad spectrum of characteristics, include extroversion, neuroticism, agreeableness, openness and conscientiousness.
Out of those five traits, two are the most indicative of someone who is actually happy in this crazy, mixed-up world: people who are highly extroverted and people who score low on the neurotic scale.
Obviously, this doesn't leave a lot of room for the 40 million American adults who suffer from anxiety disorders to believe they have a shred of a chance at being happy.
And this is through no fault of their own.
The Big Five's broad model of personality traits also doesn't take into account how complex people are.
So, researchers have come up with an alternative model of the personality spectrum by taking each of these five personality traits and splitting them in two.
A new paper authored by Jessie Sun, Scott Barry Kaufman and Luke D. Smillie in the Journal of Personality takes a look at each of these 10 traits to get a broader view of the differing paths one can take to happiness.
In a recent column in Scientific American, Kaufman said of the study,
We based our analysis on a new model of personality that breaks each Big Five trait down into two separate aspects. We found that this more finely grained personality analysis was really helpful in understanding the link to well-being.
Out of the 10 aspects of personality, they found not two, but five major characteristics associated with a higher level of well-being.
Those were as follows:
Pretty straightforward. Think of all the enthusiastic people you know.
They're the people who are excited to show up, who love to take part in things and who greet you with a level of joy mostly found in dogs.
Not surprisingly, if you're enthusiastic, you're likely to be happy.
The question is simply which came first: the chicken or the egg?
2. Low withdrawal
Withdrawal is a characteristic of neuroticism, meaning that the people who suffer from it have a general feeling of unease in themselves.
So, it stands to reason that people who have low levels of withdrawal are more comfortable in their skin, are more easygoing and are generally happier than the average bear.
People who work hard, plan ahead and are capable of getting shit done are simply more happy in life.
This could explain how New York has thrived as a city full of millions of people who claim to feel such affection for it. Moving there and working there fosters an attitude of pride in one's accomplishments.
God only knows people don't move there for the sunshine.
That's right: People who care about others, who take an interest in the lives of their friends and who want to know how they can be of service to other people are happier.
So, maybe help someone cross the street today.
5. Intellectual curiosity
Quick learners, people who like puzzles, nerds and thinkers, rejoice!
Well, you probably already are celebrating since your life is full of unbridled joy. Or at least, it's a lot happier than some numbnuts loser who doesn't care about solving problems and learning new things.
Overall, we learned you don't have to be an extrovert or be super laid-back to be a happy person.
In fact, what's so great about this study is, all of these qualities can be developed by taking certain actions in our own lives.
So if you're feeling down, work on a problem until you find a solution, meditate, go to a dance party to release your inner enthusiasm for life or do something for someone expecting nothing in return.
Well, except for an increased sense of happiness.
Citations: The 5 Personality Traits That Make for a Better Life (New York Magazine), Which Personality Traits Are Most Predictive of Well-Being? (Scientific American), Unique Associations Between Big Five Personality Aspects and Multiple Dimensions of WellBeing (Journal of Personality)