New studies show that the dramatic feeling of “awe” has the power to inspire, heal, change our thinking, and bring people together.
It’s a feeling we could all use to our benefit and something that we should try not to dismiss.
“Awe is the feeling of being in the presence of something vast or beyond human scale, that transcends our current understanding of things,” says psychologist Dacher Keltner, who heads the University of California, Berkeley’s Social Interaction Lab, in a new article published in Parade magazine. A pioneer in the study of emotions, Keltner helped Facebook create those new “like” button emojis.
“People often talk about awe as seeing the Grand Canyon or meeting Nelson Mandela,” Keltner says. “But our studies show it also can be much more accessible—a friend is so generous you’re astounded, or you see a cool pattern of shadows and leaves.”
Keltner and his studies have come to the conclusion that awe is a basic part of being human and “something we all need.” Our awestruck state allows us to shift from “me” to “we”, and allows us to see things in new ways. This “stop-and-think” phenomenon makes us more receptive to details and new information.
It also makes us nicer and happier. “Awe causes a kind of ‘Be Here Now’ that seems to dissolve the self,” says social psychologist Paul Piff of the University of California, Irvine. “It makes us act more generously, ethically, and fairly.”
And happiness leads to better health. By disconnecting our devices and connecting to the world around you in a more inspired way, this feeling of awe will lead you to less stress and more opportunity for happiness.
When you take a moment to think about it, isn’t that awesome?