This recent Outside Magazine article shows what many of us already have known, but is confirmed here again – That not only living a healthy lifestyle contributes to happiness, one can literally create new neuro-pathways in the brain, (and you can actually change your DNA) by practice uplifting behavior and exercises.
Launch the new year with these simple, life-improving strategies.
From Outside Magazine, January 2014
The tendency to be happy or not is an inherited trait, but the good news is that this is less than half the story. According to a 2012 study of identical and fraternal twins conducted by a team of scientists from top universities around the world, only about a third of our happiness level is determined by genes. The rest is up to us.
Looking for drivers of well-being, the researchers zeroed in on a gene that aids in the transport of the neurotransmitter serotonin. In the biochemistry of mood, serotonin plays a role much like the Good Witch in The Wizard of Oz, bringing brightness and cheer, and regulates stress levels, sleep, and pain, among other things. The study found that those who’d inherited longer variations of -the gene had a slight increase in overall happiness, but surveys of the twins suggested that genes get only a minority vote when it comes to mood.
Other research indicates that how happy you are can influence the ways your genes are expressed. In a 2013 study, researchers at UCLA and the University of North Carolina reported that happiness levels have powerful effects on genes and our health. But there was a catch: the specific kind of happiness mattered a lot. The unselfishly happy, whose feelings of well-being involved a deep sense of purpose in life, had a strong expression of antiviral and antibody genes.
Happy hedonists, meanwhile, wrapped up in materialistic pleasures, had weaker immune systems, resulting in inflammation that can lead to cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. “Even pleasures that seem virtuous, like looking at a sunset, can be hedonistic, because they involve one’s own emotional gratification,” explains UCLA professor of medicine Steven Cole, the senior author of the study. “The real distinction is whether your happiness is tied into purpose and meaning outside yourself.”
Bottom line: like so many things, how happy you are comes down to how you choose to live your life. We’ve rounded up the latest beta on how to show your DNA who’s boss.
1. Rise with the Sun
Most adults require seven to eight hours of sleep per night. Less than that and we’re crankier, dumber, sicker, and even fatter. But that’s no excuse to sleep in.
Read the rest of this story…
One of the best resources I’ve used over the years is the audio presentation by C.W. Metcalf, Lighten Up, available at Nightengale-Conant