The Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Positivity and Joy
by Gina Merlino, republished with permission from Eden Keeper
New research from UC Berkley indicates that experiencing feelings of joy and positivity may have anti-inflammatory effects on our bodies.
Nature, spirituality, and art are all known to draw positive experiences, where people feel inspired and connected. One can look at a painting or sculpture, be at a service, or walk through a garden and feel a sense of awe, wonder, and wellbeing. These are elements used beyond pleasure to enhance people’s lives and bring communities together. Now, a new study from University of California, Berkley has shown that these experiences can be good for your health. These feelings of joy and positivity are linked with anti-inflammatory effects.
The Feelings of Awe Improve the Body
In this study, published in the journal Emotion, there were a couple of experiments done on over 200 adults using samples from oral tissue. What researchers found is those who had greater feelings of awe had lower levels of cytokines. These are proteins that tell the immune system to work more. However, too much of them create inflammation, triggering health problems like heart disease and diabetes. It shows these positive emotions are a boost to the body.
Being around plants and flowers can ease stress, and art is used to express emotions, communicate and can heal. Meditation, prayer, or services in a place of worship give spiritual guidance and nourishment. All three can produce wonder in us, along with creativity, and even transformation. When we have experiences of these feel-good emotions, they make us feel better, in turn improving our health. Dacher Keltner, a psychologist at the university said, “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.”
Positivity is Good for Overall Well-Being
With some science to back it up, taking a walk in nature, arts, or spiritual practice is a great move for mind, soul, and body. This strong feeling of well-being comes over us, and we feel happy, moved by what our senses take in. Music in a church or temple, or a beautiful image resonate positive emotions within us. They certainly do that for me. When I am on a beach, one of my favorite places to be, listening to classical music, or looking at amazing photography, I feel wonder and contentment. Spending time in a natural landscape is good for our immune systems, where all the elements of beauty and spiritual fulfillment come together to give us joy. It is yet another good reason to include these things in your life. Stress is reduced, and great feelings rise.
Jennifer Stellar, the lead author on the Berkeley study remarked, “Awe is associated with curiosity and a desire to explore, suggesting antithetical behavioral responses to those found during inflammation, where individuals typically withdraw from others in their environment.” Keltner is a social psychologist who studies emotions and positive behavior. Their research shows one more reason why nature, spirituality, and art are important to the earth and its inhabitants.
It goes beyond elements for a happy and fulfilled life to keeping health issues at bay. Along with diet and exercise, curiosity, awe, and wonder play a role in making us feel our best. The attitude towards incorporating creative expression, ecology, and activities that feed the soul can shift as well. Stellar noted “Rather than seeing a walk through the park or a trip to the museum as an indulgence, we hope people will view these kinds of experiences as important ways to promote a healthy body in addition to a healthy mind.” Experience more of these things and reduce inflammation. Spirituality, nature and art are all universal, and can be experienced by everyone.
About the author: Gina Merlino is a freelance writer who cares about environmental issues. She has a Bachelor’s in Philosophy, a Master’s in Engaged Humanities, and is an avid reader of the news. You can find me on Twitter.
Image via Shutterstock