Researchers have discovered that experiencing the great wonders of the world, like seeing the Grand Canyon, the Sistine Chapel ceiling, or hearing Schubert's Ave Maria can boost health.
A new study links positive emotion — especially the awe we feel when touched by the beauty of nature, art, and spirituality — with chemicals that lower chronic bodily inflammation, which is linked to the development of cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and aging.
University of California, Berkeley, researchers conducted two separate experiments involving 200 young adults, who reported on a given day the extent to which they had experienced positive emotions such as amusement, awe, compassion, contentment, joy, love, and pride.
Samples of gum and cheek tissue taken that same day showed that those who experienced more of these positive emotions had the lowest levels of the cytokine Interleukin 6, which is a marker of inflammation.
While cytokines are necessary for the body's defense system, sustained high levels are associated with disease.
"That awe, wonder and beauty promote healthier levels of cytokines suggests that the things we do to experience these emotions — a walk in nature, losing oneself in music, beholding art — has a direct influence upon health and life expectancy," said Dacher Keltner, co-author of the study, which appears in the journal Emotion.
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