Sorry for the drop in posts this week. I had a few night shifts, so I have been trying to rest the past couple of days.
I wanted to share this interesting article I read about how human cells respond to types of happiness. While happiness in general is associated with better health, Science Daily explains the difference between hedonic and eudaimonic happiness.
Terms sound familiar? Probably because you have heard of them in your Philosophy 101 class. Hedonic happiness is defined as a simple happiness derived from a pleasurable experience. Eudaimonic happiness is a “deeper” type of happiness that is driven by a noble cause, or as my Ethics prof taught me, a sense of duty.
Figure. This picture has really nothing to do with the article, but they look like smiling, happy cells! It is actually grass cells seen under a microscope. Image source was provided by my friend, Christine: http://haha.nu/arts/photography/grass-cells-under-microscope/
Researchers have found that people with eudaimonic well-being had a positive affect on their gene expression, showing decreased levels of CTRA in immune cells, whose expression is associated with stress. In contrast, hedonic happiness showed higher levels of CTRA expression, possibly because this happiness is associated with consumption of “empty calories.” I’m not entirely sure what they mean by “empty calories” but I would assume that hedonic happiness can be derived from drinking alcohol or eating food in larger quantities or lower quality (IE- fatty foods and sweets, yum!). These things may trigger the reward circuit in the brain, but also eventually lead to a negative impact in health if done excessively.
These findings may indicate how important it is for humans, on both a mental and physiological level, to have a sense of purpose in their life. In discussions I have had in literature and philosophy classes, we have always talked about how this drive for greater meaning in life is what makes us humans so uniquely human, setting us a part from other species. It’s really cool to see how this can been reflected both on a biological level and not just a “spiritual” one.
Got to love connections made between humanities and science. Deep stuff, man.