This CNN article about happiness fascinates me and has gotten the two angels on my shoulders whispering in my ears.
The hedonic angel, who resembles my mischievous friend Ben, tells me it’s junk science and, well, I can’t repeat here the rest of his colorful commentary. The other angel looks and sounds a lot like psychology professor Bernardo Carducci, director of the Shyness Research Institute at Indiana University Southeast. “Yes! That’s the beauty of volunteering and helping others,” he says. “You can make a real difference in somebody else’s life. And while you’re helping other people, you help yourself – you’re happier, you make connections, connections that can lead to love interests, friendships, better jobs.”
Ben shoots off some fireworks to get my attention.
In the CNN article, researchers from the University of North Carolina and UCLA discuss their study findings that the root of one’s happiness can have a significant impact at a cellular, genetic level:
“I know what misery looks like on a genetic level,” (UCLA medical professor Steve) Cole said. “I can look at white blood cells and see a physical response to stress and misery, but we knew very little about how — if at all — positive psychology gets disseminated to the body. That’s what this study does.”
… The study found that people who experienced the well-being that comes from self-gratification had high inflammation and low antiviral and antibody gene expression, a result similar to what people who are depressed or experience great stress have.
The people who found happiness by pursuing a greater good had a lower level of this inflammatory gene expression and strong antiviral and antibody gene expression.
A Colorado College microbiologist explains in the article the potential impact of constant levels of inflammation, saying it can cause exhaustion and tissue damage and can increase risks for cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s.
Personally, I cherish happiness and rarely take it for granted, so I think I’ll keep both of my angels.
With a new school year upon us, here are some insights from Carducci about happiness for college students and their families.