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DNARecent research at the University of Minnesota has revealed that it is the gene 5-HTT that determines how happy or satisfied we are with our life. Scientists believe that this gene is responsible for triggering the ‘happiness’ hormone serotonin, produced by the pineal gland in the brain; low serotonin levels have been linked to clinical depression.

Although 5-HTT has long been believed to maintain mental health, it is only recently that researchers have discovered that it is the gene’s length that determines the extent of our happiness or depression.

A new study published in The Journal of Neuroscience, Psychology and Economics matched people’s satisfaction levels in life with their 5-HTT gene, and concluded that those of us who have a longer gene tend to be ‘happier’ compared to those with a shorter one.

These findings help explain why ‘naturally happy’ people are so happy! Our individual genetic make-up gives each one of us a unique baseline level of happiness, but there are other factors that need to be considered before a person’s happiness level can be calculated.

The age-old ‘nature versus nurture’ debate has never been more apt. It is difficult to know with certainty exactly what nature has gifted us with; this provides us with the perfect opportunity to define our own happiness and find contentment.

Being thankful for what we have been given, giving charity, having a will to strive for the best, spending time with family and friends, looking after pets, listening to music or reading a book can make you happy. Having the right length of the happiness gene only makes it easier!

– Dr Summaiya Syed-Tariq
The writer is a Senior Forensic Practitioner at the Police Surgeon Office, Karachi.

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