Here's What Qualifies As A 'Healthy Personality,' According To Science
Kelly Gonsalves is the sex and relationships editor at mindbodygreen. Her writings on sex, relationships, identity, and wellness have appeared at Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, The Washington Post, and elsewhere.
We know all about what defines a toxic personality type—research has even given us specific ways to slice it up into all kinds of specific types of toxic. But of course, just because you're not a total jerk doesn't necessarily mean you've got the best personality ever. That's the whole reason we talk about personal growth so much here at mbg, right alongside working out, eating well, and getting enough sleep: because being psychologically healthy is just as important as being physically healthy, and most people have some inner work left to do.
Of course, when it comes to being physically healthy, the goals are more obvious: minimizing sickness and pain, having more energy and ability, and living long and strong. But when it comes to being psychologically healthy, what exactly are we talking about?
A study recently published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology sheds some light: Researchers have apparently deduced exactly what constitutes a "healthy personality." They asked over 200 personality and psychology experts to weigh in on how they define a healthy personality, as well as over 500 undergraduate students. There was surprising consensus about the necessary qualities among the entire group.
Here's the profile they came up with. A healthy person is…
- Open to feelings (meaning they're able to experience and express emotions)
- Warm (meaning they're friendly, affectionate, and able to form close bonds with others)
- High in positive emotions (meaning they experience a lot of happiness, love, and other good feels regularly)
- Straightforward (mean they're genuine and not likely to manipulate others)
- Confident in themselves
- Emotionally stable (meaning they're generally not too depressed or anxious and aren't particularly predisposed to getting angry or responding negatively to situations)
- Fairly resilient to stress
The researchers tested out this profile on a sample of over 3,000 people to see if it could be used to assess whether an individual person has a healthy personality, and the test held up to snuff. People with healthier personalities tended to have higher self-esteem, more self-control, and a "clear and stable" view of themselves; they also tended to be more optimistic about life, less mean, less antisocial, and more self-sufficient.
As you've probably noticed, this idealized "healthy personality" is basically…the perfect person. Indeed, the researchers found that the healthy personality type was distinct from what they determined to be the "normative" personality type, meaning there's no need to panic if you don't see that much of yourself represented in the above description. Most people won't fit the bill completely, and that's because we all have areas of our mental and emotional selves that could use a little mindful attention, development, and growth. They did find that healthy personalities tended to be more common among people in middle adulthood, and past research has suggested that most people's personalities only get better as they mature.
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