The Benefits of Awe

Connectedness and Faith

In studies where subjects had a feeling of awe after watching nature videos, the sense of awe seemed to link with an intolerance for uncertainty. For subjects with religious beliefs, this led to a stronger belief in God. For the nonreligious, it increased their belief in evolution as having a purpose rather than being a random process(1) (2). In both cases, subjects felt a greater sense of oneness with others.

Universalism

Researching the accounts of astronauts post-space flights showed an increase in beliefs of universalism, and an interconnected human race. (3) https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/04/160419120055.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overview_effect

 

Life Satisfaction and Goodwill

In another study, awe resulted in the subjects feeling that time was more plentiful, which led to a higher willingness to volunteer, make charitable efforts, and generally increase life satisfaction. (4)

Physical Health

In a recent study, researchers had participants report their positive emotions throughout the day, which included awe. When the subjects reported their feelings, they had their mouths swabbed to test the levels of their cytokines; proteins that are associated with type-2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, depression, and heart diseases. It was noted that positive emotions significantly lowered the subjects’ levels of cytokines, and the emotion that was shown to have the most powerful effect was awe.

Science has yet to tell us the evolutionary purpose of awe. Awe seems to serve no obvious purpose to our survival, and yet it is recognized as a prevalent feeling or state worldwide. Although we have yet to discover awe’s meaning from an evolutionary standpoint, scientists tend to agree that awe has many benefits. Overall, it seems that an increase in awe can lead to an increase in happiness, meaning, and good nature. Awe’s effects are not only beneficial on an emotional scale, but seemingly also on a physical one.

 

So, with its links to better health, feelings of oneness and an increase in generosity, how can you increase the awe in your life? It is likely that you have already experienced “awe.” To get you started on this awesome journey, I invite you to participate in a few short exercises.

References:

(1) Valdesolo and Graham, “Awe, Uncertainty, and Agency Detection” (Psychological Science, Jan. 2014)
(2) Valdesolo et al., “Awe and Scientific Explanation” (Emotion, Oct. 2016)
(3) Suedfeld et al., “Changes in the Hierarchy of Value References Associated With Flying in Space” (Journal of Personality, Oct. 2010)
(4) Rudd et al., “Awe Expands People’s Perception of Time, Alters Decision Making, and Enhances Well-Being” (Psychological Science, Oct. 2012)