The New York Times is running an interesting piece called “The feel Good Gene.” Essentially the author, Richard Friedman, MD talks about how some people are less prone to anxiety and drug use to control it, due to a gene variation in the brain that leaves some folks less anxious and fearful. A higher level of the chemical anandamide is produced by those who have this variation, and this resulting chemical is appropriately known as the “bliss molecule.”
Talk about the luck of the draw—some things really are helped or harmed by basic biological luck. According to recent research, about 20% of adult Americans have this mutation—bet we all know someone. They are those easy-going, happy, calm folks who can “just say no,” to drugs like pot and cocaine and mean it. We all have some measure of anandamide, just some have more and life is a bit easier for them because of it.
A mouse study was published last month that backs up these findings. Mice with higher levels of anandamide were more outgoing, risk-taking, and calmer than those who had less. Their emotional control was stronger as well. The good news here (yes there is some) is that environment always influences genetic predisposition. Given the right amount of stress and a too heavy dose of life challenges, those with this gene mutation could exhibit high levels of fear and anxiety. The reverse is also true.
The real take away from some of this research is that anyone regardless of having or not having this genetic advantage can have high stress and related addiction problems in the right environment. My take-away is a reinforcement of what I have always believed. Making good choices and decisions influences outcomes–having a good support system, using relaxation and other techniques for stress control, eating good food, getting a healthy amount of sleep, engaging in regular exercise, and seeking out positive people can make a difference for all of us. Maybe this is the real secret of happy people, the kind that others want to be around.
Want to read more? Go to to read the whole article and see if it can be useful to you, especially in your relationship life.