Cultivating Awe

A jaw-dropping moment really can make time appear to stand still – or at least slow down, new research suggests. Regular “awesome” experiences may also improve our mental health and make us nicer people, claim psychologists. 

Awe is the emotion felt when encountering something so vast and overwhelming it alters one’s mental perspective. Examples might include experiencing a breathtaking view of the Grand Canyon, taking in the ethereal beauty of the Northern Lights, or becoming lost in a dazzling display of stars on a clear, dark night.

The new research found that by fixing the mind to the present moment, awe seems to slow down perceived time. Studies on groups of volunteers showed that experiencing awe made people feel they had more time to spare. This in turn led them to be more patient, less materialistic, and more willing to give up time to help others.

Writing in the journal Psychological Science, the scientists led by Melanie Rudd, from Stanford University in California, concluded: “People increasingly report feeling time-starved, which exacts a toll on health and well-being.”

Drawing on research showing that being in the present moment elongates time perception, we predicted and found that experiencing awe, relative to other states, caused people to perceive they have more time available and lessened impatience.”

“Furthermore, by altering time perception, feeling awe led participants to more strongly desire to spend time helping others and partake in experiential goods over material ones. “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.”

Previous studies have linked “lack of time” feelings with an increased risk of high blood pressure as well as headaches, stomach pains and poor sleep quality. Time pressure is also linked to eating unhealthy fast-food diet, failing to engage in leisure experiences, and depression.

The researches added: “Our studies… demonstrated that awe can be elicited by a walk down memory lane, brief story, or even a 60-second commercial. “Therefore, awe-eliciting experiences might offer one effective solution to the feelings of time-starvation that plague so many people in modern life.”  From The Telegraph Birmingham, England

Time isn’t precious at all, because it is an illusion.
What you perceive as precious is not time
but the one point that is out of time: the Now.
That is precious indeed.
The more you are focused on time
—past and future—
the more you miss the Now,
the most precious thing there is.
Eckhart Tolle