In 2007, Professors John Cacioppo and Steve Cole discovered that feeling lonely alters people’s genes: it reduces their ability to fight off viruses and increases their risk of inflammatory diseases such as cancer.
Between 2010 to 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 also the genes of people who lived lives built around purpose.
What they found was that the hedonistic lifestyles had no measurable effect on genes. But the genes of people who lived purposeful lives showed improved antiviral response and reduced risk of inflammatory diseases. Three larger studies have since shown similar results.
This genetic effect implies that purpose is somehow connected with evolution but that’s a story for another day.
In the meantime, the short term impact is that living in line with your purpose not only makes you freer and more focused and helps you achieve more, it also changes the way your genes express themselves, which makes you healthier and enables you to live longer.
Would you like to reduce your risk of inflammatory diseases such as cancer? Are you living a purposeful life?
Adapted from Inner Leadership: tools for building inspiration in times of change.
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