Happiness – The Gift that Keeps on Giving
By Elva Carri
We may know it deep down already but science is now backing up the fact that altruistic deeds may be the real secret to a happiness and better health. A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showed two types of happiness contribute to our physical health, by way of a relatively new area of science referred to as ‘epigenetics’.
The two types of happiness consisted of; happiness that comes from having a ‘sense of purpose’ in your life; and a hedonic or self-gratifying sense of wellbeing. James Baird, author of ‘Happiness Genes’, refers to the latter as pleasure derived from external factors, and the other as a feeling that comes as a result of altruistic behaviour, such as a good deed or an act of compassion.
Having this sense of purpose and carrying out actions to “do good” correlated with favourable gene expression for the immune system; low levels of inflammation and strong expression of anti viral and antibody genes. High levels of ‘hedonic happiness’ had exactly the opposite effect.
James Baird says the survival instincts which cause us to seek out hedonic happiness are ‘higher priority’ genes but that this can be changed by being more conscious. And because genes are passed on, these positive effects on your health don’t just benefit you; they could positively impact two subsequent generations!