In the Jewish calendar, the period between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur is known as the ‘10 days of Awe’. Awe is the feeling of being in the presence of something vast or beyond human scale which transcends our current understanding of things. A recent University of California/Berkeley study concluded that ‘Awe’ can also help fend off chronic inflammation that is linked with many age-related, lifespan-shortening disorders such as heart disease, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and diabetes.
The kinds of Awe that the researchers studied included people’s responses to nature and beauty, views of the Grand Canyon, listening to Schubert’s Ave Maria, walking through a beautiful forest, and viewing great works of art like the Sistine Chapel. You can also add prayer to the list.
Physiologically, these ‘awesome’ events provoked positive emotional responses in people which led them to produce lower levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines, the hormonal messengers which tell our bodies to ramp up our inflammatory response so that our immune systems work harder.
The bottom line: positive emotions play a large part in a person’s total well-being, both inside and out.