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News2015February › Sense of awe as powerful as drugs for reducing inflammation › February 2015

Sense of awe as powerful as drugs for reducing inflammation

Spiritual feelings, or a sense of awe when we look at a beautiful scene or hear uplifting music, cause a powerful anti-inflammatory response in our body that's every bit as powerful as drugs, researchers have said this week

Spiritual feelings, or a sense of awe when we look at a beautiful scene or hear uplifting music, cause a powerful anti-inflammatory response in our body that's every bit as powerful as drugs, researchers have said this week.

This sense of the 'other' boosts the immune system, and lowers levels of cytokines, proteins that cause inflammation in the body. Inflammation has been associated with heart disease, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and even Alzheimer's disease and clinical depression.

"Awe, wonder and beauty promote healthier levels of cytokines, and this suggests that the things we do to experience these emotions-a walk in nature, losing oneself in music, beholding art-has a direct influence on health and life expectancy," said researcher Dacher Keltner, a psychologist at University of California at Berkeley.

To assess the impact of positive emotions on inflammation, the researchers recruited 200 young adults who, on one given day, said how often they experienced amusement, awe, compassion, contentment, joy, love and pride; those who had the most experiences also had the lowest levels of Interleukin 6, a cytokine that's a biomarker of inflammation.

(Source: Emotion, 2015; doi: 10.1037/emo0000033)


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