UHA Worksite Wellness

Pursuing the Right Kind of Happiness for Health

Written by Valerie Au on January 26, 2015. Posted in Well-Being, Post

There are increasingly clear links made between good health and happiness, but it turns out that it’s not simply a matter of smiling and having a good time in life that makes you healthier. In fact, while everyone likes enjoying themselves, your good health is dependent on a different and deeper form of happiness.

Links Between Disease and Happiness

Researchers Barbara Fredrickson and Steve Cole found that happiness that comes from doing good or fulfilling your life purpose (“eudaimonic” well-being) may be better for you than happiness that comes from self-gratification or pleasure seeking (“hedonic” well-being). When it comes to your health, it seems, not all forms of happiness are created equal. Results of the study show that, while both types of happiness correlated with lower depression levels, only those people with high levels of eudaimonic happiness had a better immune response profile—ability to fight against diseased cells.

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In contrast, those with high levels of hedonic happiness had a lower immune response profile. There is nothing wrong with seeking pleasure, but these studies have shown that this type of hedonistic well-being has nothing to do with promoting good health—and can actually work against it.

What Kind of Happiness is Linked With Health?

Researchers call the meaning-seeking happiness eudaimonic well being. This type of happiness is associated with relationships and purposeful activity. People who have a greater sense of purpose, experience social connection and relatedness while enjoying eudaimonic well-being.

Current research from the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine (2005, Vol 12, No.2 66-77) shows a strong association between feelings of compassion and helping behavior with good health and longevity. Helping others can be as good for you as it is for those you help. Being engaged with others can reduce aging at the cellular level. Researchers say an example of this phenomenon can be found in the classic Dickens story, A Christmas Carol, where with each new act of charity, Ebenezer Scrooge became more fit and energetic, something they call the “helper’s high.

The pursuit of happiness was established as a right in the Declaration of Independence. If we want to enjoy good health, it’s important that we make sure that the type of happiness we pursue has an element of meaning to it. Why not work these elements into your daily life, at work or at home, and see how it effects your health and well-being!

Valerie Au

Worksite Wellness Program Manager; Vice Chair, Hawaii Health at Work Alliance (HH@WA) Board of Directors

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