Aug 07 2013

Doing Good, Rather Than Feeling Good, Promotes Better Health

“Think positive and you’ll be a healthier person.” That’s that standard mantra of the positive thinking movement so pervasive in alternative health circles, embodied by Deepak Chopra’s famous line: “Happy thoughts make happy molecules.”

But a new study finds it’s not that simple.

Researchers at the Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology just published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, which found that those people who were happy through the simple pursuit of pleasure were at higher risk of chronic diseases than those people who pursued greater meaning in their lives.

Researchers studied 80 adults, assessing them for these two types of happiness: the pursuit of self-gratification that is called “hedonic happiness” and pursuit of a self-less, meaningful life that is called “eudaimonic happiness.”

People who experienced hedonic happiness had gene expressions similar to people under conditions of chronic adversity even if they actually felt positive.

But people who experienced eudaimonic happiness had favorable gene expressions.

In other words, happy thoughts don’t make happy molecules. Rather, according to this study, contributing to the betterment of society and having a purpose in life better ensures good health.

GUEST: Steve Cole, Professor of Medicine and Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences in the UCLA School of Medicine and Director of the UCLA Social Genomics Core Laboratory. He is one of the co-authors of the study

Click here to read more about the study.

Click here to read the actual report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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