I was excited to see this article, when a local Aikido friend shared it on Facebook last night. This research supports what has been my experience over the past few years, since I started training, meditating, de-stressing, and generally being happier. Like “waking up excited about the day” kind of happy.
I have done other things that should affect my health, too, like lost weight, got in better shape, I eat better, and of course get tons of exercise. But it feels like my body is healthier when I’m happy, and my peripheral neuropathy (PN) symptoms (pain and weird circulation) are reduced dramatically.
When I’m unhappy (and not just stressed out, I mean sad, grieving, deeply unhappy), I’m in pain. And the PN started during a period of extreme, long-term unhappiness a little over 10 years ago.
Here’s what these researchers found:
“What they found is that different types of happiness have surprisingly different effects on the human genome.
People who have high levels of what is known as eudaimonic well-being — the kind of happiness that comes from having a deep sense of purpose and meaning in life (think Mother Teresa) — showed very favorable gene-expression profiles in their immune cells. They had low levels of inflammatory gene expression and strong expression of antiviral and antibody genes.
However, people who had relatively high levels of hedonic well-being — the type of happiness that comes from consummatory self-gratification (think most celebrities) — actually showed just the opposite. They had an adverse expression profile involving high inflammation and low antiviral and antibody gene expression.”
I have wondered if this might be the way antidepressants work on neuropathic pain, by making people happier, and if just being happier (without the meds) might not be just as effective.
In any case, being happy is a good goal for how to live, and worth achieving even if this weren’t so. But leading to better health, too? Bonus!