What Happens When We Experience ‘Awe’?
One of my favorite experiences was climbing
to the second highest peak in the state of New York and gazing out across the wide Adirondacks.
It was literally awesome. But what is about awe? And why do we get that feeling? Hey wonderers, Julia here for DNews When was the last time you felt awe? Standing
under a canopy of soaring sequoias? Staring across the vast and endless sea? Looking into
the eyes of a newborn? Awe is something that makes us feel connected,
part of something larger than ourselves that maybe we can’t quite understand. And for
us that’s sometimes difficult. We like ourselves. that big important I. We like ME over WE.
But we need to get over that real fast, because awe, is well… awesome. but why? Why did we ever evolve this feeling?
Maybe to help other people, so say some researchers. So when we experience awe, what happens? Well
for one, it might make us healthier. In one study published in the journal Emotion, researchers
found that awe reduces the levels of pro-inflammatory proteins called cytokines. These proteins tell the immune system to work
harder. And prolonged inflammation can cause all sorts of issues, like heart damage, diabetes,
Alzheimer’s and even depression. Which of course depression might lead people to be
less likely to explore and seek out such awe inspiring situations, so the researchers aren’t
sure what came first, the low cytokines or the positive emotions. My bet is on the positive emotions, because
other studies, like one published in the journal Psychological Science found that awe might
make us prefer experience over things and even be happier with their lives. Awe can even change a person’s perception
of time. After being awe-struck, some people feel like they have more time according to
the study published in the journal Psychological Science. In this study, students watch a commercial
designed to invoke awe, stuff like whales and waterfalls. Afterwards, the students filled
out a questionnaire in which they responded positively to questions like “I have lots
of time in which I can get things done”. And they were more likely to use their time to
help other people. Seriously awe can make us be more generous
to other people. Another study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
says the experience of awe makes us more willing to help someone else. In several studies people
who thought about the last time the felt awe or watched awe-inspiring nature videos showed
more ethical behavior than people who thought about other positive feelings like pride. In one particular clever set up, researchers
had participants either stand gazing up at tall Eucalyptus trees for a full minute or
stand in the same spot but look at a building instead. After the minute was up, the researchers
“accidently” dropped a box of pens. Those who looked at the trees were more likely to
help the researcher than those in the control setting. So why does awe make us more helpful? Well
because big things make us feel small. And that’s a good thing. The researchers think
that by feeling smaller, our focus shifts from ourselves and towards the greater good. So wanna feel happier and more helpful? Head
to the woods! Or if you’d prefer to stay inside, and still want to experience Awe,
Jason Silva explores the idea in one of his first videos on his show Shots Of Awe Make sure to check out his show and subscribe
to his channel. There’s a link to subscribe in the description
of this video.