Awe therapy could 'improve our mental health and make us nicer'

 

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.

The findings raise the prospect of "awe therapy" to overcome the stressful effects of fast-paced modern life.

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 wellbeing.

"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."

The researchers conducted a series of experiments to compare the effects of awe and happiness.

One involved volunteers watching either an "awesome" video depicting ordinary people in city streets and parks encountering "vast, mentally overwhelming and seemingly realistic images" such as waterfalls, whales and astronauts in space.

Another "happiness" video showed rainbow-coloured confetti falling through the air and a parade of smiling, joyful people wearing brightly coloured outfits and waving flags.

In other experiments, participants wrote about memories of awesome or happy experiences, and read a story about climbing the Eiffel tower and looking down on Paris.

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."

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Life and Style
tech
News
The 67P/CG comet as seen from the Philae lander
scienceThe most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Ian McKellen as Gandalf in The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies
film
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Koenig, creator of popular podcast Serial, which is to be broadcast by the BBC
tvReview: The secret to the programme's success is that it allows its audience to play detective
News
Ruby Wax has previously written about her mental health problems in her book Sane New World
people
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £60,000

£25000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Care Workers Required - The London Borough of Bromley

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This homecare agency is based in Beckenh...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas