Regular awe-inspiring experiences may improve our mental health and make us nicer people, psychologists have claimed, raising the prospect of "awe therapy" to overcome the stressful effects of fast-paced modern life.
The new research found that the emotion felt when encountering something jaw-dropping and overwhelming may also slow down our perception of time, by fixing the mind to the present moment.
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.
One experiment involved volunteers watching an "awesome" video depicting people encountering "vast images" such as waterfalls, whales and astronauts in space, while others wrote about inspiring memories and read about climbing the Eiffel tower and looking down on Paris.
Writing in the journal Psychological Science, the scientists, led by Melanie Rudd, from Stanford University in California, concluded: "A small dose of awe even gave participants a momentary boost in life satisfaction... and underscored the importance of cultivating awe in everyday life."
The researchers added: "Our studies ... demonstrated that awe can be elicited by a walk down memory lane, a brief story, or even a 60-second commercial."