I have to admit, the subject line is a little misleading, and yet there is still tons of truth in it depending on your path to happiness.
Anywho, I stumbled across a study done on how lifestyle can affect your epigenetic expression. In case you aren’t familiar with gene expression, I have an entire ebook on the topic of anti-aging through altering your epigenetic expression from the perspective of nutrition.
Epigenetics is the way in which your genes can be “turned on” or “turned off.” Meaning, your genes aren’t always doing what they’re designed to do, and your nutrition can directly cause positive gene expression or even negative gene expression.
However, there are other circumstances which can cause adverse or positive gene expression. In fact, they play just as large of a role in your health as nutrition does.
So let’s explore.
We’re going to do some literary time traveling back to ancient Greece, a little over 2000 years ago. This period is known for a few historical philosophers. The two that we’re interested in both had entirely different philosophies on how to obtain happiness.
I think we can all agree that happiness is essential to living a happy and fulfilled life. There have been movies, books, songs, the entertainment industry, and probably even the FOMO phenomenon triggering Instagram photos we drool over each day, that fall into this category.
Back to our ancient thinkers –Aristippus and Aristotle. Aristippus had the mindset that happiness came from literally doing what makes you feel good and avoiding what causes pain.
Aristotle, on the other hand, was under the impression that happiness came from purpose and ethics.
The “do whatever makes you feel good” method to gaining happiness is referred to as a hedonistic lifestyle.
The “take action according to purpose and ethics” method is referred to as a eudaimonic lifestyle.
Do you know people who fit these two categories?
Likely you know a lot of people who are more hedonistic, they do what they want. You hear them quoting YOLO a lot. They seem to go where the wind (or their emotional state) blows them. They kind of roam the landscape of life aimlessly in search of the next thing to make them happy.
On the other hand, the ones who are more eudaimonic are the ones we look up to. They embody the kind of person we want to be. They will leave a tremendous legacy when they’re gone due to their diligent work, creativity, and purposeful lifestyle.
But I’m not here to tell you which way to live your life. I simply want to clue you into a little secret that I recently learned, and it’s not so little.
Recent scientific studies have revealed that although both lifestyles can make you legitimately happy, the hedonistic one is associated with a negative epigenetic expression.
Steven Cole, a UCLA professor of medicine and Barbara L. Fredrickson at the University of North Carolina have been studying Human DNA as it pertains to DNA expression taking into account people’s lifestyle choices.
What they’ve found is that the hedonistic lifestyle is directly correlated with stress, inflammation, and immune system suppression as a result of the undesired epigenetic response.
And the eudaimonic lifestyle is directly correlated with a more favorable immune system response, less presence of stress hormones, and less inflammation.
In order to compare apples to apples so to speak, the scientists made sure to pick individuals who were both physically healthy and internally happy.
Here’s what they had to say, “People with high levels of hedonistic well-being didn’t feel any worse than those with high levels of eudaimonic well-being,” scientists said.
“Both seemed to have the same high levels of positive emotion. However, their genes were responding very differently even though their emotional states were similarly positive.”
“What this study tells us is that doing good and feeling good have very different effects on human gene expression, even though they generate similar levels of positive emotion,” they said.
“Apparently, human gene expression is much more sensitive to different ways of achieving happiness than are people’s conscious minds.”
So long-term health, the speed at which we age, and susceptibility to illness is all determined by inflammation, stress hormones, and immune system alertness…
…which is in turn determined by whether we live with or without purpose.
Now that we know living a more purpose driven life leads to better health, how can we turn this into actionable items that apply to us today?
The first thing I would tell you to do is to think about all the things you’ve had on your to-do list for a while but haven’t finished yet.
The thing is, life is a trade-off. There’s really only so much time.
Ask yourself how much time do you spend watching TV, playing games, staring into the abyss of social media wishing your life was like someone else’s?
These are time vampires 🦇, stealing precious life away from you.
Do you think you could be happy cutting one of these time vampires out and trading it for an activity that will help you to reach one of your goals?
A purposeful goal could be writing a book, learning a new skill, or actually using that gym membership you bought after New Years.
It could be doing something you’ve never done before, getting your ducks in a row so you can pay off your debt and travel to a distant country that’s been on your bucket list for almost as long as it takes to get used to not accomplishing that goal….
Do you see a self-fulfilling trend here?
The only thing it really takes to achieving your goals is taking relentless action regardless how you feel one day to the next. See what you’ve done? Now you’ve switched gears from hedonistic to eudaimonic and your DNA will be happier 🙂
Ok, so one last thing. Perhaps you’re only hedonistic in some areas of your life and eudaimonic in others. In which case there may be just one or two areas where you’re living with less purpose and rather more good feeling emotion seeking.
Are there areas you can think of that need more eudaimonic influence?
The more you feed your purpose-driven side, especially in those areas, the more you’ll derive happiness from health, confidence, security, and self-awareness.
Which in my experience, is WAY better than just feeling good in a single passing moment.
I’m interested to hear what new thing you’re going to pick up, learn, or accomplish.
Until next time, Have fun conquering your day! 🙂
Talk Soon. –Tim Ray