For Better Health, Be Awed

Researchers also found awe can occur more often than you might think
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 27, 2015 8:25 AM CDT
For Better Health, Be Awed
The Great Sphinx is seen in Giza, near Cairo, Egypt, Nov. 9, 2014.   (AP Photo/Hiro Komae)

News that's kind of, well, awesome: Research suggests that the feeling of awe offers a health boost, and it actually happens quite frequently. "Some people feel awe listening to music," University of California, Berkeley, researcher Dacher Keltner tells the New York Times, "others watching a sunset or attending a political rally or seeing kids play." When a moment has "passed the goosebumps test," his team finds, it has a physical effect that can be detected in your saliva. Based on two sets of surveys of and saliva samples from freshmen at the school, Keltner's team found an apparent link between low levels of the molecule interleukin-6—associated with inflammation, and thus unhealthiness—and positive feelings.

In the study, published in January in the journal Emotion, researchers note that "awe was the strongest predictor of lower levels of proinflammatory cytokines." And students actually experienced it fairly frequently: at least three times weekly on average, the Times reports. Awe itself is the subject of increasing scientific interest, Slate notes; indeed a 2012 study found that after experiencing awe, participants felt "like they had more time available" and were in turn more patient and willing to help others. Writing for Slate, Keltner himself recommends that we "seek more daily awe," noting that researchers have linked it to a sense of community and even more kindness. And he drives home the idea that awe can be found in moments as simple as "after the perfect burrito." (Optimism, meanwhile, may have other benefits.)

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