Table of contents:
- Psychologists believe that the emotion of awe plays an important role in achieving health, happiness, and well-being. And in order to experience it, you don't have to watch a supermoon
- How Feeling Awe Affects Feelings of Well-Being
- Reverence Helps Maintain Physical Health
Video: Awe Is Happier - Research, Self-development
Psychologists believe that the emotion of awe plays an important role in achieving health, happiness, and well-being. And in order to experience it, you don't have to watch a supermoon
You might experience this while standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon. Or when they thought about the infinity of space. Or you may feel something like this when you see someone giving way to a stranger on a crowded train.
It's about the emotion of awe. According to scientists, it is essential in our feeling of happiness, in maintaining our physical health and the high quality of our social interactions. She has probably played an important role in how people have established contact and cooperative relationships with each other throughout human history.
“Awe people tend to focus more outward and value others more in their social interactions,” said Dr. Jennifer Stellar, associate professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Toronto. (She's also studying the effects of awe on the body's immune system.)
Psychologists and neuroscientists who study awe define it as an emotion we feel in response to something huge that challenges our habitual perceptual frameworks in a given area, causing that framework to change. This information was published in a frequently cited article in the journal Knowledge and Emotion in 2003.
It is about our experience when we meet something new or unusual that does not fit into our understanding of the world,”says Amy Gordon, lead researcher at the Laboratory for the Study of Emotions, Health and Psychophysiology at the University of California-San Francisco.
How Feeling Awe Affects Feelings of Well-Being
One of the important differences between awe and other emotions (such as inspiration or surprise) is that it makes us feel insignificant. It gives us a sense of "self-belittling" in the language of science. And that's good for us, Stellar explains.
We spend a lot of time thinking about what is happening in our world and is directly related to us. "Reverence changes this situation by making us feel like we are part of something greater."
To feel insignificant is to experience humility. As a result, selfish tendencies such as feeling “in their own right”, arrogance and narcissism are weakened
Feeling insignificant and humble makes us want to interact more with others, to feel more connected with them, Gordon adds. "These are all very important for a sense of well-being."
According to a 2018 study by Stellar and Gordon, people who, according to their own opinion, tend to experience awe in their daily lives more often than others, are more humble in their friends' opinion. Participants who experienced awe during the study (as a result of watching awe-inspiring videos) became more sober in their strengths and weaknesses. They were also more likely to recognize the role of external forces (such as luck, a higher being, etc.) in their personal achievements (such as going to university) compared to those who did not watch these videos.
Evolutionary scholars believe that the consequences of the experience of awe - feeling insignificant, humble, and wanting to be connected with others - should be considered among the reasons why people have united in groups and communities and led a collective lifestyle throughout human history.
“The point is, the experience of reverence allows us to be more aligned with what is needed to maintain social harmony,” says Gordon. Although, she clarifies, as in evolutionary psychology in general, such theories cannot be tested empirically.
Reverence Helps Maintain Physical Health
In another study by the Stellar and Gordon group, it was found that people who, in their own opinion, are more awe-inspiring than others, have better immune systems. In a group of 94 students, those who reported experiencing positive emotions more often than negative ones had lower levels of chronic pro-inflammatory cytokines.
Proinflammatory cytokines may be useful in certain cases when the body is damaged or sick, but persistently elevated levels are associated with chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and depression. Awe was the only positive emotion most likely associated with consistently low levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines.
Feeling awe not only improves a person's well-being on an individual level, but can be a key to solving serious social problems, adds Dr. Craig L. Anderson, a research psychologist at the University of California-San Francisco.
His group's research was conducted with a group of war veterans and a group of young people from areas with poorly developed infrastructure, for whom rafting on a mountain river was organized. The goal was to study the influence of nature (which is the most often spoken about by people with a sense of awe) on the psychological well-being of these people. All participants had fewer PTSD symptoms and improved scores for overall happiness, life satisfaction, and the degree of connectedness, Anderson explains.
Another study by Anderson's group suggests that people who tend to feel awe are more inquisitive, both in their own judgment and in those of their friends. This combination of awe and curiosity is arguably the reason for the better academic performance among high school students (it has been linked to higher levels of self-efficacy, work ethic, and academic performance).
“These are fundamentally important things for society,” he says. "Our research shows how important the experience of awe can play in people's lives." These findings can help work to heal the trauma of veterans or to overcome some of the factors that create inequality in areas with poor infrastructure.
By Sara Di Giulio
Translation by Kiril Melamud