Exploring the Genetics of Positive Affectivity

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Exploring the Genetics of Positive Affectivity

Date of Content: February 10, 2024
Written by: Harvey Talento
Reviewed by: Maarit Tiirikainen, PhD


What is Positive Affectivity?

Positive affectivity is a personality trait that reflects a tendency to experience positive emotions and moods. Individuals with high positive affectivity are typically characterized by:

  • Frequent feelings of joy, happiness, and contentment
  • Enthusiasm and zest for life
  • Energy and vigor
  • Optimism and confidence
  • Strong sense of well-being

It’s important to distinguish positive affectivity from positive emotions experienced in specific situations. Positive affectivity is a dispositional trait, representing a stable tendency to experience these positive emotions across different situations and over time.

Here’s a helpful analogy: Imagine positive affectivity as the “thermostat” for your emotional state. While life events can temporarily influence your mood (like turning up the heat), individuals with high positive affectivity tend to return to a baseline of positivity more quickly.

Positive Affectivity

Effects of Positive Affectivity on Daily Life

Understanding positive affectivity is crucial because research has linked it to various positive outcomes, including:

  • Improved physical well-being, such as a stronger immune system, better sleep, and a lower risk of chronic diseases, can be achieved through certain practices.
  • Developing greater resilience to stress and challenges involves cultivating better coping mechanisms and ensuring a faster recovery from setbacks.
  • Enhanced emotional regulation and coping skills contribute to the ability to manage negative emotions effectively in various situations.
  • Cultivating stronger social relationships and satisfaction is associated with greater empathy, positive communication, and engaging in prosocial behavior.
  • Increased work performance and creativity can result from higher motivation, increased engagement, and improved problem-solving skills.

How Genes May Influence Positive Affectivity

Positive affectivity has been investigated for its genetic underpinnings in a genome-wide association study (GWAS). A 2017 study revealed two significant single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), rs322931 and rs7550394, on chromosome 1, and both are in the genetic locus for LINC01221. Both variants were associated with positive affect even after adjusting for gender, childhood maltreatment, and other possible confounders. LINC01221 produces a long non-coding RNA that is expressed in many different brain tissues.


The minor allele of rs322931 was associated with positive affectivity. Further analyses revealed rs322931 as a brain cis-eQTL for miR-181a and miR-181b, and the minor allele was associated with decreased expression of miR-181a1 and miR-181b1 in the brain.


Rs7550394 is connected with rs322931, and its minor allele was also associated with positive affectivity. It was also significantly associated with expression levels of all four transcripts for miR-181a1/b1, suggesting a role in regulating these microRNAs. As with rs322931, its minor allele was associated with decreased expression of miR-181a1 and miR-181b1

Expression of these microRNAs is associated with greater a certain brain region (nucleus accumbens) reactivity to positive emotional stimuli as well as enhanced fear inhibition, and previous studies have suggested that miR-181a is part of the brain’s reward neurocircuitry.

These findings contribute to understanding the complex molecular basis of positive affectivity, shedding light on the intricate interplay between genetics, gene expression, and emotional well-being.

Non-Genetic Factors Influencing Positive Affectivity


Certain personality traits are associated with higher positive affectivity. Extraversion, conscientiousness, and openness to experiences are often linked to positive emotions and outlook, while neuroticism tends to be associated with lower positive affectivity.

Lifestyle Choices

Engaging in healthy behaviors like regular exercise, getting enough sleep, maintaining a balanced diet, and practicing mindfulness can increase positive affectivity. These activities can improve mood, reduce stress, and promote overall well-being.

Social Relationships

Strong and supportive social connections are consistently linked to higher positive affectivity. Having close friends, family, and a sense of belonging can provide emotional support, buffer against stress, and contribute to feelings of happiness and fulfillment.

Overcoming Challenges to Positive Affectivity

Positive affectivity is integral to emotional well-being. However, individuals often face challenges that impact positivity. Below are some key aspects of positive affectivity, addressing challenges and offering practical insights on overcoming them.

Psychological Disorders

Low levels of positive affectivity are often associated with various psychological disorders, particularly depression. Overcoming this challenge involves seeking professional help, practicing cognitive-behavioral techniques, and building resilience.

Stress and Adversity

Life stressors and adversity can dampen positive affectivity. Coping strategies such as mindfulness, social support, and stress management can help individuals maintain a positive outlook even during challenging times.

Negative Thought Patterns

Negative thought patterns can hinder positive affectivity. Cognitive restructuring, positive affirmations, and gratitude practices can counteract negativity and promote a more optimistic mindset.

Physical Wellness

Physical wellness plays a role in affectivity. Regular exercise, adequate sleep, and a balanced diet enhance overall well-being and positive emotions.

Social Isolation

Loneliness and social isolation can diminish positive affect. Building and maintaining social connections, participating in group activities, and volunteering can combat isolation.


Cultivating self-compassion allows individuals to treat themselves kindly, even when facing setbacks. Self-compassion practices involve self-forgiveness and understanding.

Mindfulness and Resilience

Mindfulness practices, such as meditation and deep breathing, enhance emotional resilience. They help individuals navigate challenges while maintaining a positive mindset.


In pursuing emotional well-being, sustaining positive affectivity demands a practical and comprehensive approach. Fostering positive affectivity is a tangible and collective effort where proactive strategies and support systems intertwine to promote emotional flourishing.

About the LifeDNA Personality and Cognition Report

If understanding and enhancing positive affectivity is a priority in your journey towards well-being, consider taking a significant step today. The LifeDNA Personality and Cognition Report offers valuable insights into your unique positive affectivity trait. This personalized report provides you with specific information tailored to your characteristics.

By accessing your Positive Affectivity Trait Report, you empower yourself to comprehend and leverage your emotional well-being more effectively. This report can be a key resource in navigating life’s challenges, fostering resilience, and unlocking the pathways to a more positive and fulfilling existence.


  • Positive affectivity is a stable personality trait marked by a consistent tendency to experience positive emotions, fostering joy, enthusiasm, and a sense of well-being. It represents an enduring disposition towards optimism, confidence, and a positive outlook.
  • Understanding positive affectivity is crucial, as it is linked to improved physical well-being, resilience to stress, better emotional regulation, stronger social relationships, and increased work performance. It serves as a foundation for overall well-being and successful coping.
  • Genetic investigations, particularly genome-wide association studies (GWAS), have identified significant SNPs associated with positive affectivity, like the rs322931 and rs7550394 found on chromosome 1. These findings shed light on the molecular basis of positive affectivity and its genetic interplay.
  • Personality traits, lifestyle choices, and social relationships influence positive affectivity. Extraversion, conscientiousness, exercise, sleep, diet, and strong social connections are vital in shaping positive emotional states.
  • Low positive affectivity can be associated with challenges like psychological disorders, stress, negative thought patterns, and social isolation. Overcoming these involves seeking professional help, employing coping strategies like mindfulness, and fostering a positive mindset through cognitive restructuring and gratitude practices.


  1. https://link.springer.com/referenceworkentry/10.1007/978-1-4419-1005-9_977
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16351326/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5339071/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5339071/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5339071/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7063053/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2787693/

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*Understanding your genetics can offer valuable insights into your well-being, but it is not deterministic. Your traits can be influenced by the complex interplay involving nature, lifestyle, family history, and others.

Our reports and suggestions do not diagnose or treat any health conditions or provide any medical advice. Consult with a healthcare professional before making any major lifestyle changes or if you have any other concerns about your results.