These 10 traits are key for a “healthy personality”—which ones do you have?


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If your coffee and social media habits point to less-than-coveted personality traits, how can you determine whether you fall on the other end of the spectrum? If only there was some sort of scientific study to tell you how well-adjusted and psychologically healthy you are…

Aha! New research published in the journal Journal of Personality and Social Psychology could cue you into the personality traits that are key for your mental well-being. In the first of three studies, researchers asked 137 experts in trait psychology to describe their idea of a psychologically healthy person using the 30 personality facets in the NEO Psychological Inventory, Revised (AKA a big list of defined traits that personality experts use to ensure everyone is speaking the same language). The researchers also had experts in positive psychology and undergraduate students create their own definitions of a “healthy personality.”

Across all groups, the same key traits were identified: According to the report, “healthy personality functioning can be best characterized by high levels of Openness to Feelings, Positive Emotions, and Straightforwardness, and low levels on all facets of Neuroticism.”

On a more granular level, psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman, PhD, names 10 specific personality traits in Scientific American:

  • Openness to feelings
  • Straightforwardness (and being “frank, sincere, and ingenuous”)
  • Competence
  • Warmth (being affectionate and friendly)
  • Positive emotions (experiencing “joy, happiness, love, and excitement”)
  • Low levels of angry hostility
  • Low anxiety (not being “shy, fearful, nervous, tensed, and restless”)
  • Low depression
  • Low vulnerability to stress
  • Low impulsivity (being able to control cravings and urges)

You don’t have to have all those personality traits to have a healthy life, Dr. Kaufman is quick to point out, but rather “the key determination [for psychological health] is the extent to which low scores on this profile block you from reaching your personal goals.” (To see where you fall on the scale, you can take an online test created by Dr. Kaufman.)

In two additional studies, the researchers compared these trait profiles to over 3,000 real students, and found that the traits were associated with greater life satisfaction, more self-esteem, self-sufficiency, being more optimistic, having less anger and aggression, and having more self-control. Because having anxiety, depression, and stress play a big role in keeping you from achieving all of those things, there’s no better time than now to make sure your mental health status isn’t what’s getting in the way of you living a long, happy life.

Bookmark these questions to ask your doctor before starting new mental health meds. Or, find out why you should never, ever, ever get back together with an ex, for the sake of your mental health.

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