The wonders of the world can be just as good for your health as they are for your enjoyment, suggests a UC Berkley study.
Researchers have linked positive emotions—awe, contentment, spirituality—with lower levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines, proteins that signal your immune system to work harder and bolster good health.
In two separate experiments, more than 200 young adults were asked to log the extent to which they experienced amusement, awe, compassion, joy, love, and pride on a given day. 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, a marker of inflammation that can cause autoimmune disease and depression.
“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,” says UC Berkeley psychologist Dacher Keltner, a co-author of the study.
An added emphasis on spirituality and mindfulness may just be enough to get you through this winter happy and healthy.