By Keri Murphy
Are you happy? I mean really happy or do you find yourself more often than you’d like to admit, pasting a smile on your face and heading out for the day? I believe we can all live in a “happy place” but it takes more than just going out and buying that new pair of Fall shoes.
Happiness comes from the attainment of what we each consider “good”. We all have our own of definition of happiness.
There are two theoretical perspectives on what makes people feel good and happy. Hedonic well-being is the kind of happiness that comes from self or instant gratification. On the other end, Eudaimonic well-being is the kind of happiness that comes from having a deep sense of purpose and meaning in life.
Both generate similar levels of positive emotion, but in a study recently published by the National Academy of Sciences they have found that the human genome responds very differently to the two.
Steven Cole, a UCLA professor of medicine and a member of the UCLA Cousins Center, and his colleagues have examined for the last 10 years how the human genome responds all kinds of negative emotion such as stress, misery and sadness. But then posed the question: Does positive well-being activate a different kind of gene expression?
Using the implications of both hedonic and eudaimonic well-being they found surprising results.
Doing good and feeling good are not one in the same (at least when it comes to your genes).
People who have high levels of eudaimonic well-being (think Mother Teresa) showed very favorable expression profiles in their immune cells. They had low levels of inflammation, and strong antiviral and antibody genes.
However, people who have high levels of hedonic well-being (think materialistic, money driven people), showed the opposite with high inflammation and low antiviral and antibody gene expression.
Even though you may feel similar levels of positivity with both types of happiness, they do not affect you body the same way.
“Apparently, the human genome is much more sensitive to different ways of achieving happiness than are conscious minds,” noted Cole.
With this in mind, examine the things in your life that make you happy. Are you giving back to others? Do you feel you have a true sense of purpose in life? Or are you too worried about obtaining more to achieve contentment?
Mother Teresa said, “Not all of us can do a great thing. But we can do small things with great love.”
Start making small steps to finding your true purpose today. A small gesture of kindness, support or love towards someone else can make all the difference in THEIR day or week and you will find yourself happier, more content and healthier in your own life.
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