The Awe Factor
Beauty is all around us. From art to nature, even spirituality, that touches us deeply and positively. Researchers have linked these positive emotions with lower levels of cytokines.
Cytokines are proteins that signal the immune system to work harder. While they are necessary to guide cells into the body’s battlegrounds in order to fight infection, disease and trauma, sustained high levels of them are considered bad and indicate poorer health and certain disorders like diabetes, heart disease and arthritis for example.
Healthy diets, exercise, sleep are all examples of what the body needs to fight away mental and physical illnesses but new research has been the first to look at how positive emotions can be useful in strengthen your health.
“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 UC Berkeley psychologist Dacher Keltner, a co-author of the study.
The two separate experiments that were published in the journal Emotion included more than 200 young adults. They reported on a given day the extent to which they had experienced positive emotions such as awe, joy, amusement, amazement, and wonder. Samples of gum and cheek tissue, known as oral mucosal transudate, taken on that same day then showed that those who had experienced such positive emotions had the lowest levels of the cytokine marker, Interleukin 6.
Higher cytokine levels have also been linked to depression as a study revealed depressed patients have higher levels of the cytokine known as TNF-alpha. This happens because the high levels of cytokines block key hormones and neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine.
Feeling under the weather? Maybe you should get out the bed and go see the world, or something closer like a hike, to experience the beauty of it all and you might just find yourself feeling much better.
You can also use Yoga to Strengthen your Immune System.