In 2007 Professors John Cacioppo and Steve Cole discovered that feeling lonely alters people’s genes: it reduces our ability to fight off viruses and increases our risk of inflammatory diseases such as cancer, arthritis, and the clogged arteries that can lead to heart attacks.
So between 2010 and 2013 Steve Cole worked with psychologist Barbara Fredrickson to look for the opposite effect. They studied the genes of people who lived highly connected, hedonistic lives. And they also studied the genes of people who lived lives built around purpose.
What they found was that living hedonistic lifestyles had no measurable effect on people’s genes. But the genes of people who lived lives built around purpose showed improved antiviral response and reduced risk of inflammatory diseases.
Three larger studies have since shown similar results.
Living in line with our purpose not only helps us to achieve more and feel freer and more focused — it also changes the way our genes express themselves, making us healthier, and enabling us to live longer.
Would you like to reduce your risk of inflammatory diseases like heart attacks and cancer? Are you living a purposeful life? Do you know your purpose? Would you like to?
Adapted from Inner Leadership: a framework and tools for building inspiration in times of change.
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(And remember: you don’t learn to swim by reading about swimming, you also have to practice.)