How a person views past predicts happiness

May 5, 2011 at 2:03 AM

SAN FRANCISCO, May 5 (UPI) -- How one thinks of the past affects how one feels in the present, with those who remember the past positively being happier than others, U.S. researchers say.

Ryan Howell, assistant professor of psychology at San Francisco State University, and graduating senior Jia Wei Zhang say the study involved more than 750 participants completed surveys about their personality, life satisfaction and "time perspective" -- a concept used to describe if a person is past, present or future orientated.

To assess time perspective, study participants were asked such questions as whether they enjoy reminiscing about the "good old days" or whether they believe their future is determined by themselves or by fate, Howell says.

"We found that highly extraverted people are happier with their lives because they tend to hold a positive, nostalgic view of the past and are less likely to have negative thoughts and regrets," Howell says in a statement. "People high on the neurotic scale essentially have the exact opposite view of the past and are less happy as a result."

The study, published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, says the finding is good news because it may be difficult to change one's personality -- a predictor of happiness -- but it is possible to alter one's view of the past and increase happiness.

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