LIKE ANY SELF-RESPECTING Netflix junkie, I wasn't thrilled by a recent study linking TV binges to depression and other health woes. True, researchers hadn't yet proved that watching back-to-back episodes of Orange Is the New.' Black would turn me into a miserable lump. But sure as Piper Chapman's next cold prison shower, that pronouncement was coming. Was there nothing left that I could guiltlessly enjoy as much as I wanted, while barely lifting a finger? After months of family illness and loss, I needed a new indulgence--and fast. Scarfing down a pound of chocolate was out, alas. Ditto for every other vice I could think of, from drinking to smoking to spending the day in bed with a tall, handsome stack of crossword puzzles.
Then, one morning, a bouquet of flowers arrived at my door. They were all white--not a riveting arrangement, you might think, and yet I kept staring at their endless, amazing variations of white. I took sniff after sniff of their honey-and-soap fragrance, and stroked their velvety petals. A few days later, I found myself at a museum in Corning, N.Y., transfixed by a glassmaking demo in which a glowing blob at the end of a stick became a sunset-colored bowl.
Both times my spirits stayed airborne for hours. Both times I was reminded of something I had temporarily forgotten: the healing power of all-you-can-eat beauty. At last, a binge that could make me and my doctor smile. Not only can beauty boost your mood, but another recent study suggests that awe at the world's loveliness (art, nature, spirituality) might have serious perks for your health. More precisely, researchers have found that such awe goes hand in hand with lower levels of proteins that--when present in large amounts--are connected with diabetes, arthritis and other diseases.
Does this mean that beauty-inspired awe curbs those proteins, or (conversely) that people with fewer of those proteins feel more awe? Further research is needed to say for sure, said Jennifer Stellar, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Toronto and lead author of the study, which she did at the University of California, Berkeley. But Stellar and her fellow authors aren't waiting to prescribe more beauty. "If there are things that make you feel awe, devote even just a little bit of time in your daily schedule to them," she told me. "We may tend to think of these things as luxuries, but if they're going to be promoting better health, then we should be folding them into our...