A new Berkeley Study reports that spirituality may help prevent disease through the power of awe.
Spirituality, nature, and art have been found to help prevent chronic disease through the power of awe. The feeling of awe is not studied as often as other emotions, but perhaps after the findings of this UC Berkeley study, which was published in the journal Emotion, more researchers will show an interest in exploring all facets of awe.
How Does Spirituality Prevent Disease?
One of the ways that spirituality protects the body from disease is by leading to experiences in which you feel awe. As reported by the Berkeley study, awe is linked to lower levels of cytokines. High levels of cytokines cause inflammation in the body, only beneficial sometimes for fighting off actual diseases.
However, it’s common knowledge that inflammation can also be harmful when it’s not needed. For one, if the inflammation in your body is the result of stress, you end up in worse shape. Higher levels of cytokines are also connected with heart disease, depression, autoimmune disorders, and Alzheimer’s.
How Did This Study Learn About the Impact of Awe?
Berkeley tested how awe affects physical health by tracking how often two different groups of young adults experienced awe (and other positive emotions, such as amusement, joy, pride, compassion, and contentment) on a given day. The researchers measured the cytokine levels of the study participants by taking gum and cheek tissue samples on the same day.
What Does Previous Research Have to Say About Awe?
Before this UC Berkeley study on the correlation between awe and cytokines, past research has indicated that feelings of awe can trigger personal transformation, develop a sense of having enough time in the day, and elevate creative thinking. Many personal accounts of spirituality have claimed that spirituality has affected them in these ways as well.
Other studies on positive feelings in general have also reported a connection between positive emotions and various aspects of health, including reduced inflammation, improved heart health, and longer life spans.
If you have any sort of health problem, it can’t hurt to give spirituality, nature, or art a chance at relieving your pain. In fact, these three often go together and are probably most powerful when all three are combined in your day-to-day life.