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Your Cells Know What Makes You Happy

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So you take a spa day for yourself and relax.

Or you volunteer to help build a home for the

homeless as part of a large community effort.

Which will make you happier?  Healthier?

A fascinating study led by Barbara L. Fredrickson

at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

found that the cells in your body know that

“not all happiness is created equal.”

Hedonic Vs. Eudaimonic Pleasure

Dr. Frederickson’s research team looked at the

cellular effects in people of engaging in two types

of activities that created feelings of well-being:

hedonic or individual pleasurable activities and

eudaimonic or activities where you strive for a

more meaningful or noble purpose.

Both kinds of pleasurable activities have the

ability to reduce stress and symptoms of

depression.  Both make you feel happy.

What the research team explored was which

of the 2 types of activity had the most positive

effect on gene expression and on your health

in the long-term, as expressed through reduced

inflammation and improved immune cell function.

Noble Purpose All the Way!

What they found was that people engaging in

activities that were pleasurable, but which were

focused on a purpose beyond self-gratification,

were found to have decreased stress-related gene

expression…they would be more protected against

inflammation and have better anti-viral response.

“Empty Calories”

Dr. Frederickson likened activities that were

engaged in for pure self-gratification to be, to

the body, the equivalent of eating “empty calories.”

Like junk food, it would taste or feel good for a

little while, but the long-term consequences

could actually be harmful to your health.

Don’t Cancel Your Vacation!

This doesn’t mean a spa day or a vacation is

going to ruin your immune system!  But the

results of this research suggest that if you have

a choice between doing something just for you

that makes you feel good and doing something

with and for others that makes you feel good,

all things being equal, go for the “doing for

others” activity.  Both will make you feel good.

But only the meaningful activity will actually

help you to be healthier in the long run.

 

 

 

 

 

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