Happiness is the great human motivator, and we're always looking for ways to increase it. New psychological evidence suggests that your personality determines where you should live – extroverts prefer the social scene of the beach and introverts prefer the privacy of mountains. It would be fantastic if this change was all that was really required to boost your well-being long-term. Although moving sucks, getting years of additional happiness out of the change of scenery could clearly be worth it. Don't pack your bags just yet, though: while it's interesting, this evidence may slightly contradict other studies on happiness, and so further research is definitely required.
In a study currently under review for the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, psychologist Shige Oishi examined whether there might be a link between personality and terrain preferences for secluded vs. open spaces. This may be the first study of its kind, and to some extent it came up empty – agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness to experience were not found to correlate with terrain preferences. But the extraversion/introversion results are not terribly surprising:
Participants perceived wooded/secluded terrain to be calmer, quieter and more peaceful. In contrast, participants in the flat/open condition perceived the terrain to be more sociable, exciting and stimulating. The study found that when people want to socialize with others, they prefer the ocean far more (75%) than mountains (25%). In contrast, when they want to be alone, they choose mountains (52%) as much as the ocean (48%).
Results of the study also showed that introverts tend to live in mountainous regions, while extroverts live in open and flat regions. The researchers caution that there is no evidence mountains make people introverted, but rather, introverts tend to choose mountainous geography because of the secluded environment.
It's not very difficult to believe that, for instance, introverts don't care to strip nearly naked and repose or parade within an arm's distance of total strangers on the beach as much as extroverts. So should you head for the hills if you're an introvert?
Unfortunately, other studies (like those frequently reported by positive psychologist Martin Seligman) show that people adapt quickly and completely to their climates. In other words, moving from a rainy to a sunny city will make you a bit happier, but only briefly. Pretty soon, you're used to the sunshine and back to the happiness "set point" you hovered around before.
So it may be that, apart from some interesting exceptions, weather is not a huge determinant of happiness. Additionally, this new study doesn't provide reason to believe that introverts are made happier by living in the mountains that they otherwise would be (or that extroverts are made happier by living near the beach), just that they tend to prefer those places in theory. So let's wait to see the results of a study that forcibly moves introverts to the beach and extroverts to the mountains, with control groups, before we hang our happiness hats on this idea.
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