Which good feeling is best for your health? It’s one you don’t hear mentioned often!

We know positive emotions are good for your health, but which good feeling is the best medicine? Joy? Pride? Love? Excitement? Nope. It turns out the positive emotion that does you the most good is one most wouldn’t think to name. It’s a feeling associated with speechlessness, with goosebumps; the feeling that comes with a breathtaking ocean view, perhaps, or from watching an incredible musical performance.

Have you guessed it? It’s awe. A recent study reported by the New York Times found that the feeling of awe offers particularly potent benefits compared to other positive emotions like happiness, enthusiasm or even inspiration. The study, led by researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, involved two experiments in which college students completed questionnaires about the positive and negative emotions they’d experienced in the past month. The students also provided saliva samples, which researchers checked for interleuken-6, a molecule tied to inflammation and thus associated with poor health.

As expected, the students who reported more positive emotions tended to have lower IL-6 levels than the students who reported more negative emotions. And in the second experiment, which involved a more detailed emotion questionnaire, researchers found that the students with the healthiest IL-6 levels reported frequently feeling one emotion in particular: awe.

“There seems to be something about awe,” says Dacher Keltner, a professor of psychology and senior author of the study. “It seems to have a pronounced impact on markers related to inflammation.” You might be surprised to learn that awe isn’t all that rare. The students in the study reported feeling a sense of awe three or more times per week! Dr. Keltner says the biggest sign of an awe-inspiring event is the presence of goosebumps, or a similar feeling. “Some people feel awe listening to music,” Dr. Keltner says, “others watching a sunset or attending a political rally or seeing kids play.”

What gives you a sense of awe? When was the last time you felt it?

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