This study by researchers from UCLA's Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology and the University of North Carolina looks at how one's happiness can affect gene expression, and they found (in a group of 80 adults) that two different types of happiness generate different profiles of gene expression.
People who have high levels of what is known as eudaimonic well-being -- the kind of happiness that comes from having a deep sense of purpose and meaning in life (think Mother Teresa) -- showed very favorable gene-expression profiles in their immune cells. They had low levels of inflammatory gene expression and strong expression of antiviral and antibody genes.
However, people who had relatively high levels of hedonic well-being -- the type of happiness that comes from consummatory self-gratification (think most celebrities) -- actually showed just the opposite. They had an adverse expression profile involving high inflammation and low antiviral and antibody gene expression.
. . . . "Both seemed to have the same high levels of positive emotion. However, their genomes were responding very differently even though their emotional states were similarly positive.
"What this study tells us is that doing good and feeling good have very different effects on the human genome, even though they generate similar levels of positive emotion," he said. "Apparently, the human genome is much more sensitive to different ways of achieving happiness than are conscious minds."