“Feel good emotions” triggered by enjoying nature’s great wonders may lower a person’s cytokines.
Excess inflammation is linked to a range of medical disorders, from heart disease to irritable bowel syndrome to cognitive decline. Cytokines are proteins that prompt for increased activity of the immune system, a process necessary to combat infection. However, when the mechanism goes into overdrive, it may contribute to heart disease, type-2 diabetes, autoimmune diseases, mood disorders and more. Jennifer Stellar, from, University of California/Berkeley (UCB; California, USA), and colleagues completed two separate experiments, enrolling over 200 young adults. Subjects reported on a given day the extent to which they had experienced such positive emotions as amusement, awe, compassion, contentment, joy, love and pride. Samples of gum and cheek tissue, known as oral mucosal transudate, taken that same day showed that those who experienced more of these positive emotions, especially awe, wonder and amazement, had the lowest levels of the cytokine, Interleukin 6, a marker of inflammation. Observing that: “awe … was the strongest predictor of lower levels of proinflammatory cytokines. These effects held when controlling for relevant personality and health variables,” the study authors submit that: “This work suggests a potential biological pathway between positive emotions and health through proinflammatory cytokines.”
Stellar JE, John-Henderson N, Anderson CL, Gordon AM, McNeil GD, Keltner D. “Positive Affect and Markers of Inflammation: Discrete Positive Emotions Predict Lower Levels of Inflammatory Cytokines.” Emotion. 2015 Jan 19.