The influence of awe

Researchers are learning the benefits of being awestruck.

Have you ever been in awe by the beauty of the sky during a sunrise or sunset? How do you feel when you see such beauty? The definition of awe is an overwhelming feeling produced by something grand or wondrous; to inspire or cause influence. It truly is a wonderful feeling to experience awe, and I am guessing many of you have experienced being awestruck at some point in your life.

There are possible physical and mental health benefits of awe. In 2013, researchers at UC Berkley Center for Greater Good began a three-year study to learn the benefits of being awestruck. The research is still new and ongoing but below are some key findings that are encouraging:

Brings us together
When a group experiences awe, everyone realizes they are part of something bigger and this tends to shift thinking from “me” to “we.”

Helps us see things in a new way
when a person is in a state of awe, it causes us pause. We are living in the moment and take in details and new information.

Makes us nicer and happier
When experiencing awe, people act more generously, ethically and fairly.

It alters our bodies
Because awe is a positive emotion, research indicates that the awe effect, especially around nature lowers blood pressure, creates a strong immune system and decreases depression symptoms.

Currently, researchers are also looking into whether a lack of nature and opportunities to experience awe might be linked to stress and negative health issues. Specifically, with those that live in poverty or urban blight.

Some may already realize the power of awe, but if not, here are some suggests to hopefully help experience the feeling:

  • Ditch the devices and look at the sky, clouds and stars.
  • Visit a park.
  • Take a walk and try to notice things as if it was the first time you have seen them.
  • Watch the sun rise or set.
  • Listen and try to feel the music.

For more information on social emotion and health education opportunities, visit Michigan State University Extension. MSU Extension offers a variety of educational programs throughout the state. To find a program near you, visit the county page.

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