The Scientific Benefits of Awe

Albert Einstein once said, “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science.”

This quote highlights the importance of awe, that feeling you get when you are overwhelmed by the beauty of a mountain, the miracle of birth, or a spiritual insight. You know the feeling is a good one, but you don’t quite understand it. It’s a feeling that can bring goosebumps, tears, or feelings of euphoria.

Interestingly, awe has increasingly become the subject of scientific research because of its benefits for us on both an individual and group level. For example, research has shown that experiencing awe can have a positive impact on our health; specifically, it’s linked with lower levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines. (Sustained high levels of cytokines are associated with poorer health such as depression, heart disease, and type-2 diabetes.)

And when it comes to emotional health, awe is also a natural stress-reliever. It expands our sense of time, and makes us less prone to impatience. Research has also shown that people who experience awe on a regular basis are more inclined to be generous to strangers. In one study, students who had the awe-inspiring experience of spending a short period of time looking up at some majestic trees were more likely to help someone who had a minor accident than other students who had been looking at a building. The researchers argued that awe fills us with a feeling of connection to others.

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