Don't Worry, Be Happy(er)

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

–  Declaration of Independence of The United States of America

Pursuit of Happiness – our unalienable right.  What makes people happy?  What makes them unhappy?  If you’re unhappy, how do you get happy?  The results of a survey of more than 3000 people who completed the Keirsey Temperament Sorter-II at the Keirsey.com website were a little surprising, and led us to look a little deeper into this question – and it turns out it may not be hard, for any of us, to feel happier just because we want to.

We surveyed more than 3000 people of all temperaments to find out what factors correlate with happiness – and which don’t.  We measured happiness levels by age, gender, income, marital status, political orientation, education level, and personality type.  The good news is that more people are happy than unhappy.  Women are a little more likely to be happy than men, older people a little happier than young, wealthy people more so than poor.  But the biggest factor – more than age, gender, or wealth – is extroversion.  74% of people who scored as extroverts on the Keirsey Temperament Sorter-II said they were happy, versus just 56% of introverted types.  Clearly some of us are happier than others, just because we were born that way.

This brings up an interesting conversation between extroverts and introverts as to why this is so – feel free to comment below, and I’ll discuss in a future article.  But I found some very interesting research by a professor of psychology at Wake Forest University that makes our research more than just interesting – it can change your life.  According to Professor William Fleeson, just acting extroverted makes people happier.

“Every single participant in the study was happier when he or she acted extroverted than when he or she acted introverted,” Fleeson said. “Even introverts can act extroverted and become happier by changing their behavior.  Regardless of whether a person is shy or outgoing, being more talkative, adventurous, bold or assertive has a positive effect. Nearly any extroverted behavior seems to have a positive impact on mood, he said. Singing out loud to a song on the radio, walking over to an attractive girl to talk to her, asking a question in class or voicing an opinion all seem to work.”

Now, I know my introverted friends may push back on me a little for this suggestion, but here it is:  next time you’re feeling a little down in the dumps, try striking up a conversation with the person next in line with you at the post office.  At the very least, you might enjoy having someone else to complain with.  But according to Fleeson, “If people want to be happier and choose to act more outgoing, adventurous or assertive, then they have the power to directly improve their own well-being.  The research demonstrates that extroversion can actually cause happiness.”

now there this song i wrote 
i hope you you learned it note for note 
like good little children 

dont worry be happy

listen to what i say 
in your life expect some trouble
when you worry you make it double 
dont worry be happy 
be happy now

– Bob Marley

33 thoughts on “Don't Worry, Be Happy(er)”

  1. Hi Kip. I think your blog is a great idea and I really look forward to reading more posts. I could really relate to the idea of this post that extroverts are happier, mainly because I’m an introvert. But I’m not sure that extroverts are simply born happier. I think that extroverts are happier because society, at least in the West, caters to extroverts. It rewards people for being chatty, outgoing, sociable and group-oriented. And life as an introvert in an extrovert world means every day is a challenge. As an introvert, I feel happy when I do introverted things, like reading, writing, watching films, going for walks. But life is certainly a challenge.

    1. Deborah, your post is full of thought and truth. Too much to expound on in one post, but a post worth thinking on.

  2. I agree with Deborah. I think society rewards extroverts. I also think that it’s healthier to express yourself and get the emotions out there (positive or negative), rather than holding them in. I’m an introvert, as well and I have a tremendously difficult time acting extroverted, but do sometimes see benefits from doing it. Although, I’m just as likely to walk away feeling like an idiot for being outgoing or “saying too much” in a social situation.

    The humble opinion of an Idealist Councilor. 🙂

    1. Sabrina,
      Wonderful sharing! I agree. I love your thoughts on what other things can help us to “feel” happy”. Our society is very saturated with , do, do , do and entertainment that standing in line is hell to them, because they may actually have to be involved in some introspection. Many are afraid of that due to being told the great lies of emotions. One of the biggest ones is that anger is sin. That is not what the bible says and God Himself experienced anger. Happiness is a feeling based on circumstance. It is well being and true joy and hope we all hunger for. You are pointing us in that direction. Thank you

  3. Is it possible that Extroverts value happiness more than Introverts? If so, they are more likely to remark upon it when they experience it, even if they don’t necessarily aim for it. Perhaps Introverts in the blogosphere could respond as to the very premise of the study, that happiness is, frankly, important.

    Also, I agree, society rewards extroverted behavior, but perhaps that is because society is profoundly communal in nature. Communication and shared activity anchor human existence. It’s no wonder that we might be more comfortable and more valuing of expressive behavior.

    1. Ann, you gave me things to think about as the other comments. You especially bring up the community aspect of the human nature. I agree, but what is community? Can community include those that don’t reach out in the check out line also, as important in contribution in other areas. I will say, that a little reaching out in public, when I did not feel like it, did help. Did it bring me happiness for the moment? Yes, but did it make me a happier person? Heck no. It’s much deeper. I am personally not satisfied with moments of happiness. I want authenticity and a conscience that brings me to wholeness. I think we are like minded. Everyone on here, taking the time to post, are definitely a boost and fulfills a need our generations alive today need. Wow, I’m so thankful.

  4. Frankly, “acting” extroverted maks me extremely uncomfortable – which I associate with unhappiness. Forcing me to talk face-to-face with someone (or a lot of someones – even worse!) would not help my happiness level. In fact, after doing so, I’m probably going to need several days of alone time to get back to eequilibrium.

    1. Thank you for your honesty. I have days like that and years back, I went to the store, and wanted out, quick! At 51 yrs. old I do chat at times now. I will say I enjoy it. I would definitely say not to put too much energy into being a chatty person! Just like another blog subject on here, we need to capitalize on our strengths. How much energy have you spent on being chatty out in public? What are your yields? Feel good or like a failure. I agree with the particular blog entry I have referred to that is not a good return. work on your talents, strengths and what comes natural. Also, has any one polled these people on their definition of happiness? Some feel that others are a mirror of themselves, such as narcissist pd sufferers. So, being chatting is to have someone mirror to them what they wish was in themselves. Is this happiness? Polls? Don’t trust them

  5. This just confirms my very unscientific (intuitive) impression that the world belongs to ENFJs, the happiest people I know.

    1. I only have one word. Authenticity. The world is run by many with personality disorders and they are quite chatty. Just a thought.

  6. A friend passed this link along to me… it is germane to conversations we engage in concerning how we both (as introverts) relate to the world. What struck me was the title “Don’t Worry Be Happy(er)”. This saying which has entered the common vernacular and popularized by the song above (actually i think it was Bobby McFerrin and not Bob Marley) is a quote by the great spiritual master Meher Baba (he began saying this in the 1920’s to those who came to him for guidance in their personal inner lives). The interesting correlation here is that Meher Baba also said: “Real happiness lies in making others happy.”… which requires one to be extroverted (to some degree) and not self-absorbed as we introverts are want to do. Good blog… keep the conversation going!

    1. Wonderful thoughts, much truth. I would only question what modes or means makes others happy. Some are behind the scenes and never known by the receiver. In other words, being chatty, or self giving in an open way is not the only way to know you are impacting another’s life. Sorry, I was married to an personality disordered person “npd” for 18 years, raising 7 children. What we see as extrovert behaviour is not always what it seems. I don’t trust outward behavior. I am thankful for someone’s kindness at the moment, but have become very sensitive to the “mask” of kindness that seeks to control their audience, whether it be a circle of friends, family, etc. Polls, bogus.

      1. good point for it is only the truly wise and compassionate perspective that allows you to truly perceive what another might need in order for one to contribute to the happiness of another. sometimes is is light heartedness that is required and at other times going deeper and addressing more intimate and personal issues. and truly speaking most of us engage in some sort of self-interest even when our intentions are honorable… i.e., we receive from our giving. thanx for the insight!

  7. I’ve found that extroverting online makes me more extroverted off line . But I can only take so much extroversion before I become miserable and want to spend time by myself. Too much stimulation, you might say, makes JJ a cranky little article. 😉

    There are times when extroversion makes me feel happier. OTOH, you’re then dependent on another person for your happiness which is a big no no in the very independent world of the INTJ.

    For me just being more active in concrete, soft adventure activities like tandem hang gliding, scuba diving and zip lining make me feel more confident in myself. Therefore, I try to travel and do adventures at least once or twice a year.

    One theory I have is that more extroverted individuals are NOT terribly contemplative types and subsequently may not have a great awareness of some aspects of themselves. This alone could result in them being happier than the more introverted types who tend to concentrate more on their inner worlds.

    I do think there’s value in being an introvert that we may not be tapping into because there is such a huge bias in favor of extroverts. I feature that thinking that we NEED to be extroverts can make a quiet person who doesn’t need suck the oxygen out of every conversation a little unhappy! Ha! (Excuse my slight hyoerbole, I love to exaggerate a tad for effect.)

  8. i was just speaking with my friend about this blog (she turned me on to it). her objection to the blog (i really shouldn’t speak for her, but she made me aware of this subtle point to which Juliajayne (above) alludes: the point missed in the blog is where introverts and extroverts get their energy… obviously intro’s from the inner world and extro’s from the outer world… and as Juliajayne most succinctly states extroverts are not very contemplative… and as an introvert myself, i can be overly so.

    my friend and i also agree, as Juliajayne also states, that there is a cultural bias favoring extroverts because of our externalized culture. i.e., value is on things & stuff & culturally sanction “accomplishments” & etc. which conversely, our culture implies the values that introverted types hold dear to be weakness, unhappiness, etc. remember all this studies are subject to the interpretation of the perspective(s) of the designers of the study!

    but really speaking, everyone needs to find a balance between extroversion and introversion. the spiritual advice is to work against one’s nature… if you are an introvert push yourself to expand your being and relate to others (but don’t overdue it… you don’t want to be that “cranky little article” as JJ so wittily puts it!). likewise, if you are an extrovert, one should try to develop an inner connection to your own center and the eternal values that reside in the human heart versus the transient cultural “norms” built upon the shifting sands of change. in either case, balance is the ideal… there i go with that introverted idealism again… damn, i better go out and talk to an extrovert… or something! ~cheers

  9. Stephen,
    wow, thanks. Yes, right when I thought you were going too far in one direction, you added a “but”. Wow, Juliajayne will most likely appreciate you expounding on her wonderful post. What a help to humanity!

    1. thanx for your kind reply… as i say balance is the key… not that i do it so well, but try, try, try. another realization that visited as i engage in this conversation is that this (blog/reply) is a form of engagement that can be interpreted as a form of extroversion, but only in the most cursory way. as my friend pointed out the real definition of extro vs. intro is from where our respective energies come.
      ~stephen

      p.s. my apologies to Juliajayne for not responding directly to your posts… i didn’t quite understand the reply process.

  10. As I understand the theory (Jung) and the work of Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers on the MBTI, the terms Introversion and Extroversion are not defined in their normal sense, but have more to do with “how one is energized or recovers, mentally, physically, emotionally, & spiritually.” As an “I,” I am energized more by self reflection, vs. how an “E” is energized thru engagement with others or an activity. Perhaps by the mere fact that “Es” are engaged with a survey, skews the findings to their favor, whereby “Is” would rather contemplate the very meaning of the questions, and later discuss how happy, or sad, they were to participate. The incorrect definition & use of I and E as it applies to the MBTI is something I find very frustrating. This pales of course to my displeasure of the MBTI being labeled as a “test,” which of course it is not as there no right or wrong responses to the questions being asked.

    1. dear JWWESLEY,
      well stated. the energy source and its replenishment was exactly my meaning. and of course, you are so right in the common characterization of MBTI. but then again, it is only one typing system, albeit a very thorough & accurate one. it has been my experience to gather understanding (and validation) about my self/type by exploring different personality typing modalities such as The Enneagram et al…

      … individuals can’t be reduced to a single definition… we all have a piece of the Truth that we have gained through our personal experience(s), but no ordinary person such as myself sees the whole truth. yet, through sharing our personal stories we begin to piece together the whole tapestry of life, the human experience and the mystery of our existence.

      keep on keeping on!
      ~stephen

  11. Hey, I don’t find surprising the results. I think really that introverts tend to contemplate more and analyse and think over some issues…and sometimes that just brings sadness to them. Extroverts I think tend to think about a problem for a short time and then get stimulated by an external factor and then… the problem is forgotten.
    I am an introvert. But beside that I am painfully shy too. Therefore I am happier when I act extroverted because for me it means that I push my limits and become BRAVER. And as much of an introvert as I am .. it feels good when people give you positive feedback or encourage you too. Yeah, I think that it is an important factor…receiving good feedback..it somehow gives you the message you are valuable and important.
    I also feel that I am adventorous inside…( I mean…I would do bungee jumping and travel around the world )but I rarely have the courage to show it ( is adventorous and playful associated with extroversion?) And when I find the strenght to show my playful, crazy side somehow I feel braver and more confident and happier.
    Living (FINALLY) the life of your dreams make you happier. Turning that image of happiness you have into reality.

    You know what makes me really sad as a person? when I act like a scared chicken.

  12. I wonder about the usefulness of creating a dichotomous world of ‘introverts’ and ‘extroverts’ and placing good vs. bad labels.
    Some of the things I have read along these lines turn into nasty, mudslinging, ‘my way is better than yours’ arguments. Neither is good or bad, neither is better or worse. It is about balance and the strengths that each of these personality aspects brings to the world. Surely the world is not a better, happier place when introverts and extroverts battle.
    If extroverts perceive themselves as happy it does not mean that they are shallow and do not think about important issues.
    If introverts look at a survey result that finds extroverts are on average happier the immediate assumption is that ‘I should be like that’. What do extroverts do that makes them happy? – go to lots of parties. Then I should go to lots of parties! But if you do not feel good after 5 parties then it will make you no happier.
    I think that it is a mistake to look at profiles of happiness and try and fit a certain mold.
    It is more important to identify the things that make you happy or unhappy and try and push boundaries that allow you to make gains on the areas in your life that cause you stress or unhappiness.
    There is no point in turning a perceived inability to be happy into another source of anxiety. In my opinion it is far more constructive to spend less time worrying and more time actually doing the things that make me feel happy and pushing the boundaries that allow me to try things that are scary.

    1. aahh, yes… you eloquently bring the discussion back to “Don’t worry, be happy.” And even more so, go to the full quote which “Don’t worry be happy.” is a truncation of the original, which is: “Do your best, then, don’t worry be happy.” ~ Meher Baba… which first drew me into this conversation (see my initial comment). Thanks!

  13. This is a subtle point, but I wonder if there is a direct comparison between happiness levels in introverts actually living in their preferred environments and extroverts living in their preferred environments, would their happiness levels be different? I am not convinced introverts are innately less happy, just that introverts are less happy in our current culture. Another point, I am an educator, and while it heartening to see more acceptance of differing learning abilities (even if not addressing it well yet), it is distressing to witness the lack of acknowledgment of the needs introverts have in schools and other required institutions. Thank you for this forum.

    1. i too am an educator… i teach visual arts, which is a salvation for introverts in the public school system… too damn, bad there isn’t enough value and resources given to those students needs/orientation… those who are motivated through their inner life… but that speaks directly to your comments!

  14. I’m interested to know how systems of personality typing work in relation to those people with mental disorders, excluding those suffering from forms of depression, irrespective of whether people are predominantly introverted or extroverted, although I imagine that there is likely to be an issue aligned to these states of expression. Ideas anyone?

  15. The solution to bliss would be to throw away the inherent inclinations of the Id by pressuring the super-ego? I suppose a relax from the daily usual is quite dandy on the occasion. However, I’d be mighty concerned in regards to the duration in which an Introvert could Extrovert themselves prior to succumbing to a mighty exhaustion.

    Emotionally speaking, “happiness” would be considered a “care-free” sensation, no? Health effect abundant on its opposite quite certainly, though the very definition of “Introversion” implies an “in-the-head” appeal if I do recall. In one’s thoughts a Miss or Sir can be less “care-free” and more “caring” or perhaps “careful,” I do so believe. “Happiness” I’m trying to allude is less cerebral and more involuntary, the very definition of an “inclination.”

    I’d be delighted to invite upon you a desire to explore the topic from a more cerebral approach. Perhaps requesting in a written-type survey the assortment of Jacks Jills, Janes and Johns on their comfort level in daily life as opposed to an emotion as outward as “happiness.” Are a majority of introverts comfortable themselves. Perhaps they are.

  16. I was a little surprised to read that introverts can become happier by acting extroverted. I am an introvert and my job puts me in front of lots of extroverts- who simply relate poorly to introverts. I have noticed that it’s much easier for an iintrovert to relate to an extrovert than the reverse. I’ve been forced to adopt their ways if only to be effective in my work and I have to admit that I do notice short term changes in my happiness levels. The thing for me is that it’s unsustainable to modify my built in behavior permanently. What I notice is that the ME time that I need where I spend time alone to recharge my batteries increases when I display extroverted behaviors for too long. The other thing is that I am not actually an extrovert and extroverts can’t be relied on to realize I am not like them and that I am simply striving for rapport with them. This gets me branded as moody.

    Another problem for me is that by acting outside my nature rather than working within it, it’s hard to keep my mood stable.

  17. Extroverting is exhausting, even when it is enjoyable. I have learned over many years that I really enjoy socializing, as long as it is in small doses (and in small groups). And even extroverts can be moody when they are exhausted.

  18. Are “extroverts” really happier? My colleague, Kip Parent is an “extrovert” and he wrote the article. And I believe the research team that conducted this study were comprised mostly of “extroverts”. So, I wonder whether the subject is colored through a certain perspective (hmmm…). I’m currently writing the blog regarding strategies for one’s Career Growth which is a 4-part series. Once I’m done with that series, I’ll submit something for all of you to review from an “introvert’s” perspective. Thanks for all your comments and participation on our blog.

    1. I wish I had known more about what introversion really meant when I was
      a young person making school/career decisions. I think I would have looked at various jobs/careers a lot differently, and it would explain a lot of the dissatisfaction and frustration with the jobs I have taken, not really aware of the toll it would take on my daily “happiness” levels. I have spent many years working with the public, and the last 10 or so years working with highly stressed adolescents in schools–probably the worst choices I could make as an introvert! Yet, I think it is really a matter of the volume of interactions, not interactions themselves, that are exhausting, because I genuinely enjoy working with people. (My coworkers and students are always astounded to learn of my extreme introversion preference). For introverts, being able to control the volume of interactions ( ie pace yourself!) is a big part of being able to enjoy being around family and friends, and it is important to be up front with family and friends so they do not take it personally that you need solo time. I have been fortunate to have a family that is accepting of such differences, but it does take tact and diplomacy, and some extroverts will never really understand.

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