Being in Awe Can Change Your Experience of Time

Awe-inspiring moments make us feel happier and less busy.

At some point, we all wish we had more than 24 hours in a day. You don’t have to be a magician to expand time—it turns out, all you have to do is experience awe. Yes, awe—that overwhelming feeling you experience at the sight of the Grand Canyon or Niagra Falls.

Who knew that being awestruck might be good for your mental health? Researchers from Stanford University and the University of Minnesota have actually proven it. They conducted three separate experiments in the lab and found that awe-filled, jaw-dropping moments made participants feel like they had more time available, experienced greater life satisfaction, were less impatient, less materialistic, and more willing to volunteer time to help others. Not a bad outcome for a moment of awe.

So, what’s so powerful about awe that it can alter the perception of time? The researchers concluded that experiences of awe bring people into the present moment, which has a way of adjusting our perception of time, influencing our decisions, and making life feel more satisfying. In other words, awe actually changes our subjective experience of time by slowing it down.

So, if you want to be less busy and more satisfied—get awestruck. You don’t have to travel to the Seven Wonders of the World to feel awe—all you have to do is find experiences in your everyday life that inspire awe and bring you into the moment. Here are some ideas:

  • Get outside. Spending time in nature has a way of producing countless awe-inspiring moments. The sight of a majestic mountain peak or the sound of a babbling brook can bring us into the present moment and produce a deep sense of appreciation for the expansiveness of nature.
  • Spend time with children. Children see awe and wonder everywhere—and by spending time around them, we do too.
  • Get visual. Visual stimulus can inspire awe—whether it’s an image of Mt. Everest or footage of your favorite ocean creatures. Choose an awe-inspiring screensaver or watch videos filled with stunning scenery.

Reference:

Rudd M, Vohs KD, AAker J. Awe expands people’s perception of time, alters decision making, and enhances well-being. Psychological Sciences. 2012; 23(10): 1130-1136.

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