Can Nature Heal?

Have you ever stared at a natural wonder and just felt amazement? The Grand Canyon. Great Smoky Mountains. Lake Tahoe. A redwood. Or perhaps a sculpture or painting captivated you. The Statue of Liberty. Maybe grand architecture like Carnegie Hall or design such as the interior of Grand Central Station, enthralled you. I was certainly spellbound by Rembrandt’s The Night Watch at the Rijksmuseum.

Research from the University of California at Berkley indicates that certain emotions have health benefits. Their research indicates that three emotions in particular produce measurable changes: awe, wonder and amazement.  Here comes the science. Included in the number of proteins produced in the body are cytokines. Cytokines signal other cells to perform certain functions. A subset of cytokines signals the immune system to act. That is essential in fighting infections and diseases. But prolonged activity of cytokines is linked to adverse health consequences including depression, Alzheimer’s Disease and even cancer. We’ve previously covered the physical damage that depression does to the brain. AD needs no comment.

The researchers concluded that individuals who experienced those position emotions by activities such as walking in nature or observing art have healthier levels of cytokines. Research leader Jennifer F. Stellar, PhD, stated that “Our findings demonstrate that positive emotions are associated with the markers of good health”. Link to research information here.

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