The Awe Effect: How Visions of Awe Can Improve Your Health

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Shafts of light pass over the Bright Angel Fault inside the Grand Canyon, June 10, 2009.

Ever feel like time is standing still? If so, perhaps these moments happen when you are immersed in a state of astonishment. According to new research, awe-inspiring moments really do make things seem like they’re moving a little slower. Scientists also say that the effect could be a positive addition to your typical mile-a-minute day.

The Awe Moment can be sparked by pretty much anything that takes your breath away and reminds you about the vastness of the universe. Examples include seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time, looking up to find the Northern Lights, or any stars at all – especially if the only stars you usually see are skyscraper lights glittering through fog.

The research suggests that those images fix your mind to the moment in a way that many working people don’t experience anymore. The mind stops thinking about what’s next and “wows” in the right now.

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The study had volunteers watch videos of “awesome” things like waterfalls, whales, and space or “happy” things like bright confetti, parades, and brightly-dressed happy people. Those volunteers reported feeling like they had more time to spare after seeing awe-images, as opposed to counterparts who did not witness anything awesome. They also felt more patient, less materialistic, and more willing to help others. “People increasingly report feeling time-starved, which exacts a toll on health and wellbeing,” said Stanford’s Melanie Rudd, the study’s leader.

Previous studies have shown a correlation among “lack of time” and headaches, stomach pains, poor sleep, unhealthy diet choices, depression, and high blood pressure.

“A small dose of awe even gave participants a momentary boost in life satisfaction. Thus, these results also have implications for how people spend their time, and underscore the importance and promise of cultivating awe in everyday life,” said Rudd.

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