Enjoying activities involving art, nature and spirituality might make us happier, but a new study done by the University of California, Berkeley suggests that those activities could also make us healthier.

In fact, it's likely that admiring the beauty of a mountain range, wandering through the Louvre and listening to Beethoven actually boosts the body's defenses against disease.

In two experiments, researchers surveyed more than 200 young adults and asked them about their lives on a particular day, as well as the emotions they experienced. They were also asked about their day's activities. Then, researchers took samples of gum and cheek tissue and looked at each volunteer's levels of cytokines, which are the proteins that cause inflammation in the body after the body perceives a threat, such as disease.

Those students that reported more positive emotions, specifically awe, wonder and amazement, had the lowest levels of cytokines.

A lot of cytokines usually indicates that the body is fighting infection or disease and high levels often accompany illnesses such as type-2 diabetes, arthritis, heart disease and Alzheimer's.

But this study suggests that those people who expose themselves to things that give them certain positive emotions are healthier than those people who do not.

"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," says UC Berkeley psychologist Dacher Keltner.

Other studies have suggested that healthy diet, sleep and exercise help boost the body's defenses against illness, but this is the first time researchers have linked positive emotions with health.

However, this study doesn't consider that low cytokines could result in the positive feelings, rather than the other way around, so it's possible that the two are even more linked than initially believed. However, positive emotions are always a good thing. For example, awe is usually associated with curiosity, as well as a tendency to want to get out and see more of the world. In those with high cytokine levels, though, the response is usually a withdrawal from the world.

In other words, if you want happiness and healthiness, get out there and do stuff that makes you feel these emotions.

"Our findings demonstrate that positive emotions are associated with the markers of good health," says Jennifer Stellar, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Toronto.

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