Nature, art & religion can be anti-inflammatory

February, 2015

Two experiments involving more than 200 young adults have indicated that the extent to which they experienced positive emotions (such as amusement, awe, compassion, contentment, joy, love and pride) was linked to lower levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines. In particular, awe, wonder and amazement, were associated with the lowest levels of the cytokine, Interleukin 6 (a marker of inflammation).

High levels of cytokines are associated with poorer health and such disorders as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and even Alzheimer’s disease and clinical depression.

It's suggested that awe is associated with curiosity and a desire to explore, behaviors which are the opposite of those found during inflammation, where individuals typically withdraw from others.

Stellar, J. E., John-Henderson, N., Anderson, C. L., Gordon, A. M., McNeil, G. D., & Keltner, D. (2015). Positive affect and markers of inflammation: Discrete positive emotions predict lower levels of inflammatory cytokines. Emotion, 15(2), 129–133.

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A couple of years ago I reported on a finding that walking in the park, and (most surprisingly) simply looking at photos of natural scenes, could improve memory and concentration (see below). Now a new study helps explain why.

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