What makes people happy?

Extroverted Persona and Happiness

Extroversion has been linked to higher levels of happiness, but it's not clear which one causes the other [source: Matthews]. Do extroverts, flying on the wings of interaction, find happiness, or do these already happy Chatty Kathys just like to go out with their friends more?

We know that more happiness is derived from experiences than from material gain, which means that introverts may be in for an unhappy ride. If happiness is to be had in experience, extroverts are more likely than introverts to go out and seek new experiences. Extroverts may also have an advantage when it comes to getting ahead, partly because extroverts have a leg up on them when it comes to professional networking and exposure to new opportunities through friends and acquaintances. Social connections may also open up additional opportunities, such as increased proximity to possible romantic partners.

On the other hand, introverts aren't necessarily despairing for social connections, they just don't require a crowd of friends and acquaintances. While extroverts may despair at only having three or four phone numbers programmed into their cell phone, introverts prefer to have a small handful of close friends to satisfy the need for companionship and intimacy.

So, why would extroverts be happier? Happiness isn't necessarily found in social connections, but rather in not feeling socially disconnected. Social isolation occurs when we want more social interactions, but for one reason or another (chief among them being too introverted), we can't satisfy this need. Those who report feelings of social isolation are more likely to have higher levels of stress, poor sleep patterns, higher blood pressure and a host of other ill health effects [source: DiSalvo].

Interestingly, studies have shown that you can become happier just by faking extroversion, even if you are feeling withdrawn [source: Fleeson]. By forcing yourself to interact with others, especially strangers, you tend to project happiness and, in short order, feel happier. Even faking a smile produces increased happiness, as does merely being told that you will soon interact with a stranger [source: Bailly].