Seeking Wonder

November 28, 2001

Hearing the opening chords of a new ballet you’re rehearsing. That moment when you take a final bow after a performance. The repetitive beauty of your daily barre exercises. What do all of these experiences have in common? They’re moments when a dancer may feel awestruck. And according to recent research, each time you experience awe, you’re improving your health.

Researchers have long known that good moods and positive emotions tend to have a better effect on health than negative ones. But a study published in the journal Emotion found that awe (a strong feeling of respect and wonder) seems to be particularly good for you. 
Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, surveyed students, asking them how frequently they felt certain positive and negative emotions. Their saliva was also tested to measure levels of inflammation, with lower levels indicating better health. Though positive moods were consistently associated with lower inflammation levels, awe had the strongest results. The more frequently someone felt awe, the lower their levels tended to be.  


The good news is that being awestruck doesn’t seem to be as hard as you might think: In this study, the average participant reported feeling awestruck three or more times per week. And while the experience may be defined slightly differently by each person, there are plenty of potential sources of awe in a dancer’s life.