The anti-inflammatory power of nature, art and spirituality

Natural Health News – Instead of taking a pill, taking in such chilling wonders like the Grand Canyon, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel or Schubert’s “Ave Maria” can give a boost to the defense system of the body, according to new research

Scientists at the University of California Berkeley has linked positive emotions – especially fear we feel when touched by the beauty of nature, art and spirituality – with lower levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which are proteins that signal the immune system to work harder .

“Our findings demonstrate that positive emotions are associated with markers of good health,” said Jennifer Stellar, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Toronto and lead author of the study, which was conducted while that at the University of Berkeley.

While cytokines are necessary for cells shepherds to the battlefields of the body to fight infection, disease and trauma, sustained high levels of cytokines are associated with poorer health and disorders such such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and even Alzheimer’s disease and clinical depression.

It has long been established that a healthy diet and plenty of sleep and exercise strengthen the body’s defenses against physical and mental illnesses. However, the Berkeley study, whose results are published in the journal Emotion , is one of the first to study the role of positive emotions in that arsenal.

“That awe, wonder and beauty promote healthy levels of cytokines suggests that the things we do to experience these emotions – a walk in nature, lose yourself in the music, watch the art – has a direct influence on health and life expectancy, “said UC Berkeley psychologist Dacher Keltner, a co-author of the study.

Positive emotions, positive health

In two separate experiments, more than 200 young adults reported on a given day the extent to which they had experienced positive emotions such as fun, fear, compassion, joy, joy, love and pride. Samples of the gum and cheek tissue, known as trasudado of the oral mucosa, taken the same day showed that those who experienced more of these positive emotions, especially awe, admiration and wonder, had the lowest levels of cytokines, interleukin 6, a marker of inflammation.

In addition to autoimmune diseases, elevated cytokines have been linked to depression. A recent study found that depressed patients had higher levels of the proinflammatory cytokine known as TNF-alpha nondepressed counterparts. It is believed that by signaling the brain to produce inflammatory molecules, cytokines can block hormones and key neurotransmitters – such as serotonin and dopamine -. That control mood, appetite, sleep and memory

In response to why the fear would be a powerful predictor of pro-inflammatory cytokines reduced, this latest study posits that “the fear is associated with curiosity and desire to explore, suggesting antithetical behavioral responses to those found during inflammation, where individuals typically withdraw from others in their environment, “stellar said.

As to which came first – the low cytokines or positive feelings – Stellar said you can not say for sure: “It is possible that having lower cytokines makes people feel more positive emotions, or that the relationship is bidirectional, “Stellar said.

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