Gazing Your Way To Better Health
July 23, 2012 by Sam Rolley
If you have been putting off a trip to a natural wonder or awe-inspiring landmark, you may be doing so to the detriment of your health.
Researchers at Stanford University and the University of Minnesota have conducted studies on a topic that has received little scientific observation: how being awe-inspired by “something immense in size, number, scope, complexity or social bearing” affects your health.
They found that not only can a trip to the Grand Canyon or a beautiful mountain range be a memorable experience, but it can also benefit your overall health and well-being.
The study states:
[The experiments] showed that awe, relative to happiness, engenders a perception that time is plentiful, curbs impatience, and inspires a desire to volunteer time. These outcomes have been related to well-being, suggesting life satisfaction itself might be affected by awe.
Eliciting a feeling of awe, versus a neutral state, increased perceived time availability, which in turn led participants to more strongly prefer experiential over material goods and view their lives as more satisfying. [The experiments] also found evidence of mediation: Greater perceived time availability mediated awe’s effect on momentary life satisfaction and participants’ choice of experiential (over material) products.
The researchers say that awe’s ability to make people feel that they have more time can lessen the risk of hypertension and ailments such as headaches, stomach pain and poor sleep quality. It can also benefit mental health.
If your modern life, however, has you tied to a desk and staring at numbers on the computer screen all day, you may find it challenging to find the time to take a look at an awe-inspiring vista. The good news, the researchers say, is that awe-inspiring things you have viewed in the past, when reflected upon for a few moments throughout the day, can provide the same positive health effects.