The discovery of the so-called “Nice” gene is in the news today. A recent study by two big universities found that people who tend to treat others with kindness, more often than not, share “specific variations of a gene that’s associated with human kindness.” Here’s the article.
This is nothing new. Last August the University of Edinburg in Australia made similar findings concerning the heredity aspect of happiness. But they, at least, were quick to add that the genetic factor was only half of the equation. Here’s that piece, which includes tips on being happy regardless of your DNA.
I can just see some folks (we all know who they are) proudly exclaiming, “AHA! See? It’s not my fault that I’m a total a-hole! It’s my DNA!” But let’s take a minute and look a little closer.
The DNA you have when you croak, is not going to match, precisely, the DNA you had when you were born. Many many factors can cause changes or mutations in your genes. Negative mutations, as well as positive ones. Things like diet, exercise, toxins to which you are exposed, radiation, chemicals, and habits can all have an impact on your DNA. Read the science here.
I submit to you that it’s not the “specific variation” of the gene that makes you kind to others, or the presence of the happiness gene that makes you happy. I submit to you, and to the researchers, that the consistent practice of kindness to others can cause the specific variation to the “kindness gene” to happen. And that the consistent habit of choosing to be happy, of looking for things to be happy about, can in fact activate and empower the “happiness gene.” And I challenge science to put this to the test. Take some people who don’t have either one of these aspects showing in their DNA profile, and have them wholeheartedly practice happiness, and watch what happens.
We already know that habits create neuropathways in the brain that become so deeply embedded, like the tracks on an old vinyl record album, that they become automatic responses to specific stimuli. Like biting one’s nails during the exciting parts of a TV show (me) or smoking a cigarette whenever you drink a cup of coffee, or eating when stressed out. They get so automatic you do them unconsciously, unintentionally. And those habits are hard to break because of those “grooves” or pathways. But you can replace them with other pathways by deliberately choosing a different action to go with each trigger, and creating a new groove.
We also know that certain thoughts, feelings and behaviors release chemicals in our bodies that bring about physical changes. Exercise produces the same chemicals that anti-depressants do, for example. Love and chocolate produce the same chemical release.
So being happy, and being automatically kind to others can become our natural tendencies if we simply choose to make them so. And we choose them by looking for things to be happy about, instead of looking for things to complain or worry about and looking for ways to be kind to others, rather than waiting for an opportunity to be mean. The simple decision to be happy is one that can be made right now, right this very minute. And from there, it’s just a matter of consistently shifting your focus and attention to the good things, and away from the bad.
This will do more than mutate your genes into kinder, happier ones. It will make you healthier. It’ll make you live longer. It’ll make your life improve on every level. It’ll make your income go up. It’ll save your relationships, cure your ailments, solve your problems, and if enough of us do it, bring about world peace and heal the planet.
Don’t believe me? Then put it to the test. What have you got to lose, after all?
Share this post with the sad-sacks and grouchy-grumps in your life. Maybe they’ll smile.
Till next time,