Good Deeds Are Good For Your Genes

Strange but true: Reimagessearchers at UCLA’s Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology are convinced that people who have high levels of happiness that comes from having a deep sense of purpose and meaning in life (eudaimonic well-being) have very healthful gene-expression profiles, with low levels of inflammatory gene expression and strong expression of antiviral and antibody genes. Yes, it’s a good thing. Conversely, the researchers found, people who have high levels of happiness that comes from consummatory self-gratification (hedonic well-being) showed just the opposite: an adverse expression profile involving high inflammation and low antiviral and antibody gene expression. Yikes! Maybe greed is not good. A UCLA news release reports that when researchers analyzed blood samples from 80 healthy adults who were assessed for both types of well-being, they found that those whose well-being was based on fulfillment of purpose showed favorable gene-expression profiles in their immune cells and those whose well-being was based on material wealth showed an adverse gene-expression profile. Curiously, says researcher Steven Cole, “people with high levels of hedonic well-being didn’t feel any worse than those with high levels of eudaimonic well-being. Both seemed to have the same high levels of positive emotion. What this study tells us is that doing good and feeling good have very different effects on the human genome, even though they generate similar levels of positive emotion. Apparently, the human genome is much more sensitive to different ways of achieving happiness than are conscious minds.” Read more from UCLA.

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