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There’s new evidence that helping people makes you happy — right down to the cellular level. The Science Daily Reported: [Read the whole article here]

The sense of well-being derived from “a noble purpose” may provide cellular health benefits, whereas “simple self-gratification” may have negative effects, despite an overall perceived sense of happiness, researchers found. “A functional genomic perspective on human well-being” was published July 29 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Philosophers have long distinguished two basic forms of well-being: a ‘hedonic’ [hee-DON-ic] form representing an individual’s pleasurable experiences, and a deeper ‘eudaimonic,’ [u-DY-moh-nick] form that results from striving toward meaning and a noble purpose beyond simple self-gratification,” wrote Fredrickson and her colleagues.

It’s the difference, for example, between enjoying a good meal and feeling connected to a larger community through a service project, she said. Both give us a sense of happiness, but each is experienced very differently in the body’s cells.

The science is fascinating. They studied the cells associated with stress in the human genome. Stress has been shown to create inflammation, which, in turn can lead to autoimmune diseases such as arthritis and heart disease.

Fredrickson found the results initially surprising, because study participants themselves reported overall feelings of well-being. One possibility, she suggested, is that people who experience more hedonic than eudaimonic well-being consume the emotional equivalent of empty calories. “Their daily activities provide short-term happiness yet result in negative physical consequences long-term,” she said.

“We can make ourselves happy through simple pleasures, but those ’empty calories’ don’t help us broaden our awareness or build our capacity in ways that benefit us physically,” she said. “At the cellular level, our bodies appear to respond better to a different kind of well-being, one based on a sense of connectedness and purpose.”

CNN also reported on this study: read their article here.

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