There is a real focus on being happy in life.  There is even a science around studying happiness in humans.  But what we have noticed is that at a time where there is so much available information on how to achieve happiness, there is also a surge in mental health issues emerging in people of all ages.    

A review of most health articles on ‘how to be happy’ will uncover tips such as practice optimism, challenge negative thoughts, be more active, take deep breaths, practice self compassion, decluttering  and take a walk in nature, just to name a few.  But few articles talk about the difference between types of happiness.  

Dr Stephen Cole, a medical researcher at UCLA, has been studying the impact of happiness on our biology.  He has found that happiness may be connected to the way our immunity works.  Our immune system works by balancing between fighting viral infections and fighting bacterial infections, which can lead to inflammation in the body and therefore lead to tissue damage.  Negative life events can impact our inflammation levels in a negative way. Dr Cole has been researching how life events can impact our cells in a positive way. In particular Dr Cole has been looking at the impact of happiness on our immunity.  But it all depends on the type of happiness.  

So a brief science lesson here….Epigenetics is the study of what we do and how our environment might impact how our genes work.  The DNA doesn’t change but the way our body reads our DNA sequence can be changeable.  We have about 20,000 and not all of these genes can be impacted by epigenetics.  It’s mostly the ones associated with health that can be impacted by our life events and what we do in response to these life events.  In Dr Cole’s research they looked at two different types of happiness – hedonic well-being and eudaimonic well-being.  The hedonic well-being relates to positive emotions and could involve lots of great life experiences such as travel, fine dining and enjoying our leisure time.  The eudaimonic well-being relates to our sense of purpose and direction in life, and being involved in something bigger than ourselves.  What the research in this study found was that at a brain level there was no difference in the two groups, but at a cellular level, the eudaimonic group had better immunity. 

What is your purpose and direction in life?  What are your values or life guiding principles and would someone observe them in your actions?  Being clear about our values and life guiding principles is key to growing our emotional maturity.  When we are under pressure, the infant in us often shows up.  In leadership, when we can be more emotionally mature, then the infant in all of us might show up, but we can work to make sure they are not running the show. 

When I think about what makes me happy, I think about the things I love to do and am I doing these in my week.   As an empty nester I love it when I get to spend time with my grown up children.  My purpose and direction in life is guided by spending time with family and friends, being able to do my job well, giving to others in time or resources, and enjoying downtime. I don’t know what my immunity cells  look like but I like to have a balance of having fun and having purpose in my life.

To make a time to meet with Veronica email on veronica@leadershipinmind.com.au or go to https://leadershipinmind.com.au to book a time for a coaching session.


What a Happy Cell Looks Like, by Aditi Nerurkar.  February 10, 2015 https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/02/what-a-happy-cell-looks-like/385000/

How to be Happy, by Tara Parker-Pope (The New York Times) https://www.nytimes.com/guides/well/how-to-be-happy