Are You a Cranky Jerk? Time Will Take Care of That.


Are you a grouchy twenty- or thirty-something? Well, just wait a few decades and you’ll mellow out. Like fine wines, human beings improve with age.

A number of recent research studies show that the human personality changes as we get older, thanks to things like committed relationships or reaching a relaxed point in our careers. According to the Wall Street Journal, there’s also something called the Maturity Principle, which allows people to become more “agreeable, more responsible, more emotionally stable—in other words, their personalities improve.”

From 2005-2009, researchers analyzed 16,000 Australians and found the happy folks often became more agreeable, conscientious, emotionally stable and introverted over time.

Personality is defined by researchers as a “characteristic pattern of thinking, feeling and behaving that is consistent over time and across situations.” Personality, says happiness researcher Christopher Soto of Colby University, is 50 percent nature, 50 percent nurture:

According to the Big Five personality model, developed by several sets of researchers starting in the 1940s, the human personality can be divided into five broad categories or domains—openness, conscientiousness, agreeableness, neuroticism and extroversion (also spelled extraversion).
Within each category are specific traits and behaviors. Extroversion, for example, encompasses traits such as gregariousness and warmth. Neuroticism includes anger, anxiety and vulnerability.

If you’d like to change your personality, you can, but it takes diligence and dedication. Soto says if you make a behavioral change and keep it up over time, that new behavior becomes encoded. He also suggests seeing a therapist if you want to make that change faster.

In addition, try to decode the real reason behind the personality trait you want to change. For example, psychologist Richard Levak says, if you’re an emotional eater, find the feelings that drive you to that place, fix those and your eating habits should fall into place. Changing personality traits is a process, but it is possible.

Everett Collection/Shutterstock.

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