Science has long held the belief that our emotions hold extreme power over our physical health. Negative emotions, in particular, have been linked to a lot of health problems, like heart diseases and even a shorter life span. New research has shown that inflammation is what causes the link between things like stress and sadness and those diseases. The molecules in inflammation fight against things like injuries and infections, but having a high level of them over a long period can lead to worsened feelings of sadness and depression as well as diabetes.
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What scientists haven't studied as much, however, is the effect of positive emotions. A team at the University of Toronto, led by Jennifer Stellar, who also studied in Keltner's lab at U.C. Berkeley, conducted two studies to link together the feeling of awe and health. In the first study, 94 students answered questions to chronicle when they experience various emotions. Scientists then took a saliva sample and tested it for a molecule that promotes inflammation called interleukin-6 (IL-6). What they found was that the feelings of happiness were associated with lower levels of interleukin-6.
Then, in the next study, the 105 students completed questionnaires that asked when they believe they experience positive emotions. Later, they provided saliva samples. According to the report from Scientific American, joy, contentment, pride and awe were all associated with lower levels of IL-6, but awe was the only emotion that significantly predicted levels using a strict statistical test.
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Now, the results don't establish a connection between the two. However, there is a connection between having a healthier life with less stress and experiencing more awe. They go on to point out that awe is associated with the desire to explore and experience things, which is contrasted with the feelings of illness and isolation. “We know positive emotions are important for well-being, but our findings suggest they're also good for our body,” Stellar says.