“We found that highly extroverted 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, said the study author Professor Ryan Howell, a psychologist at San Francisco State University.
“People high on the neurotic scale essentially have the exact opposite view of the past and are less happy as a result.
“This is good news because although it may be difficult to change your personality, you may be able to alter your view of time and boost your happiness,” Prof Howell said.
The authors suggest that “savouring” happy memories or “reframing” painful past experiences in a positive light could be effective ways for individuals to increase their life satisfaction.
Numerous studies over the last 30 years have suggested that personality is a powerful predictor of a person’s life satisfaction.
These latest findings help explain the reason behind this relationship.
“Personality traits influence how people look at the past, present and future and it is these different perspectives on time which drive a person’s happiness,” Prof Howell said.
To assess time perspective, 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.
People’s view of the past had the greatest effect on life satisfaction.
Extraverts, who are energetic and talkative, were much more likely to remember the past positively and be happier as a result.
People high on the neurotic scale, which can mean being moody, emotionally unstable and fretful, were more likely to have an anguished remembrance of the past and to be less happy.