According to a new study published in Emotion, adding more art and nature into your life can improve your health. Researchers from UC Berkeley, University of Toronto, and the University of Pittsburgh found that positive emotions — like joy and awe triggered by a painting or a beautiful landscape (or street art) — are associated with lower levels of cytokine. Cytokine is a protein that triggers your immune system, and high levels of it have been linked to depression and autoimmune diseases.
Dacher Keltner, a UC Berkeley psychologist and co-author of the study, says:
“That awe, wonder and beauty promote healthier levels of cytokines suggests that the things we do to experience these emotions — a walk in nature, losing oneself in music, beholding art — has a direct influence upon health and life expectancy.”
The team conducted two separate experiments in which more than 200 adults were asked to give feedback on the positive emotions such as “amusement, awe, compassion, contentment, joy, love and pride,” according to the press release. Gum and cheek tissue samples were then collected and tested and showed that “those who experienced more of these positive emotions, especially awe, wonder and amazement, had the lowest levels of the cytokine…a marker of inflammation.”
Don’t count on street art curing whatever ails you, though. According to University of Toronto’s Jennifer Stellar the nature of the relationship between the proteins and positive emotions is unclear. “It is possible that having lower cytokines makes people feel more positive emotions, or that the relationship is bidirectional,” she said.
(Photo: Rex Kevin Aggabao)