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Health & Balance

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Optimism May Be Partly in Your Genes

Researchers Zero in on Optimism, Self-Esteem Gene

A Look at the Gene continued...

It’s complicated, says Philip D. Harvey, PhD, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

Rarely does one gene influence any one personality trait, he says. “My guess is that there are multiple gene interactions involved."

“There are genes that influence the way you process emotional information, and this gene affects the way you see the world. But that doesn’t mean you can't change the way you look at the world,” he says.

Reach Out and Connect

When Paul J. Zak, PhD, founding director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University, Calif., first started to read the study, he was skeptical.

But it is “pretty convincing,” he says.

Still, genes aren’t destiny, Zak says. “Some people may have a genetic leg up, and if your parents treat you well and you don’t experience any childhood trauma, you may develop richer social networks."

“We may not all have the genetic predisposition for happiness and we may not release enough oxytocin. But there are things that we can engage in -- from social media to dancing,” Zak tells WebMD.

“Whatever helps you connect with others will help you improve your life,” he says. “Jump on the social connection bandwagon now.”

Alan Manevitz, MD, a psychiatrist at New York City's Lenox Hill Hospital, agrees. “Just because you have a gene doesn’t mean you are fated to be happy or sad, it means you are more vulnerable to these traits."

“This speaks to the idea of developing coping mechanisms early,” he says.

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