When asked about goals for counseling, my clients often state simply “I want to be happier.” After this response, I usually ask what happiness means to them. Many people use examples of their friends who seem happier, and whose activities suggest they have a greater enjoyment of life overall. Looking at Facebook profiles, it’s easy to get caught in the trap of thinking everyone else is happier than you.

That is, if engaging in exciting activities creates happiness.

According to new research from the University of North Carolina, different types of happiness have different physical and emotional effects. Furthermore, these effects are experienced down to a person’s genes.

Hedonic happiness comes from experiences that provide immediate pleasure, such as eating a delicious meal or being at a great party. Eudaimonic well-being is longer lasting. This type of happiness comes from creating and working toward a sense of meaning to life and living within your own value system.

Research shows that people who experience Eudaimonic happiness have less inflammatory proteins and a greater antiviral response compared with those who primarily experience Hedonic happiness. In short, people who primarily derive happiness by pursuing the greater good have better physical responses than those who primarily derive happiness from short term pleasurable experiences.

What does this mean for your life? Do you have a good balance of both happiness types? How might you find more ways to create meaning in your life and live out your core values?