That feeling you get when you stand in front of Yayoi Kusama‘s Infinity Room, where your eyes dilate and your jaw drops from the all-encompassing majesty of this reconstructed universe, is good for you. Awe-inspiring moments whether they be from a sunset or an incredible artwork have a positive effect on your immune system. According to a study by UC Berkeley, published in the journal Emotion, researchers found that the moments of astonishment we feel when experiencing great art have profound effects on our health.
The study gathered more than 200 young adults in two separate groups and exposed them to various works of art. In response to the works, participants reported feelings of awe, amusement, compassion, contentment, joy, love, and pride. Researchers procured samples of gum and cheek tissue (oral mucosal transudate) on the same day, which revealed that the young adults who experienced these moments of positivity had the lowest levels of the cytokine, Interleukin 6. The right amount of this pro-inflammatory protein aides our bodies in fighting infections, trauma and disease. However, greater levels of cytokines can be associated with disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, clinical depression and even diabetes according to this study.
To understand a little about how moments of awe would be a powerful predictor of reduced pro-inflammatory cytokines, co-author Jennifer Stellar explains,
“Awe is associated with curiosity and a desire to explore, suggesting antithetical behavioral responses to those found during inflammation, where individuals typically withdraw from others in their environment.”
So go to a gallery, an art fair, an artists studio and boost your immune system. Take in the wonder and experience the benefits of truly great art.
Here are some amazing artwork sure to inspire you and increase your levels of cytokines: