Is Happiness in Your Genes?
What a strange statement to me. Of course, since the “gene connection” was made years ago, we’ve been saying variations of “It’s in you genes” since then; as if you were born that way, there’s no other option, and that’s the beginning and end of it. One of the best things I learned in high school was something more about genes than what scientists and the news usually present: the difference between phenotype and genotype.
At one time, I was deeply involved with horses. Horses are traditionally measured using your hand, from the ground to the top of the shoulders, and so we can describe a horse as being “16 hands high.” Anyway, I was fortunate that my Senior General Science class was about genetics, and I learned that while a horse might have genes that “say” it should be 16 hands high, it might in reality only reach 14 hands high.
That is the phenotype, the actual expression, which may be different from the genotype due to outside, environmental influences.
I knew of a “stunted” horse, who’s breed is normally at least 16 hands high, who only stood 14 hands, and I knew that his life included a history of abuse and nutritional deprivation. It was an unforgettable lesson that genes do not tell the whole story, do not control, and are not the ultimate authority that they are often presented to be.
All of this came back to me recently, while reading this article: “Genes are the key to happiness” where scientists have discovered that happy people have a longer version of a gene than those who are unhappy. But does that mean those given the “short end of the gene” are doomed to misery? The fact that genes are inherited does not mean that they have to be expressed, nor that they do not change. Scientists have simply noted that there is a link between longer genes and happiness, not which is the cause of which. When scientists first discovered genes and began to explore their function, they assumed that the genes came first, and the effect came second.
Some years ago I learned about the work of Dr. Bruce Lipton, who, upon discovering that the environment (body, world, and belief) actually affects the genes, he realized we had been looking from a backwards perspective. He dropped everything and now teaches what is called “The New Biology,” which he confesses is actually very old, and already previously known by (w)holistic doctors long ago. His work, which goes against ingrained, western scientific thinking and conditioning, is gradually gaining ground.
The article concedes: “Of course, our well-being isn’t determined by this one gene – other genes and especially experience throughout the course of life will continue to explain the majority of variation in individual happiness.” Yet the scientists, news, and the population still look for a singular “cause” to grasp and label, perhaps in the hopes of finding a simple, fast cure. And so the “happy gene” article contradicts itself and concludes: “But this finding helps to explain why we each have a unique baseline level of happiness and why some people tend to be naturally happier than others, and that’s in no small part due to our individual genetic make-up.”
Before I discovered the inner source of joy, my level of happiness was extremely low for a few months, and then in a flash, it shot up for many months and later leveled-off somewhere higher than my “normal.” Could the genes have somehow dramatically changed? Supposedly, as the unchanging, inherited “cause” of happiness, they cannot.
This risk of believing that your genes can dictate your happiness is that, if believed to be so, it will be so, and therefore appear as if so. In working with others, I have repeatedly found that the biggest “dictating” factor in happiness is what you believe. And it is not the “what” but the “you” who believes that is the dictator. When you stop believing you must feel bad, then you do. When you stop believing a whole host of “feel bad” thoughts, your relative level of happiness can also skyrocket, beyond belief.
Whether or not happiness beyond belief actually affects the genes is unknown. Whether it does or not, radically or gradually or not, does not really matter when it comes to happiness, which is always readily available. For other things like diseases, it could be what matters the most.
On his YouTube video, Dr. Lipton states: “Cellular biologists now recognize that the environment, the external universe and our internal physiology, and more importantly, our perception of the environment, directly controls the activity of our genes.”
All of this points, once again, to non-separation. The genes are not separate from the environment, the environment is not separate from the genes. The cause is the effect, the effect is the cause. Genes may indicate, but not dictate, so you need not run out and get your genes measured.
Taking care of your inner and outer environment, things you have control of, can make an immediate, massive difference in the only thing that matters: your actual experience.