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Why Awesomeness is Good for You

Experiencing awe is actually an essential part of our lives.

Ever stared up at the sky on a clear night and felt suddenly small beneath the stars? Hiked up a mountain and marveled at the immensity of the vast beauty below?

That inexplicable sense of wonder, it turns out, is actually good for you.

A handful of recent studies have found that when people experience a sense of awe, they’re generally more likely to feel less stressed, more humble, and more satisfied with their personal lives. “Awe experiences” — like catching a meteor shower in action or being around when a child is born — have also been linked with being less interested in ourselves, more generous towards others, and more curious about the people and things around us.

It could help reduce stress

hiking scenic mountain travel tourist alone

For a study published in January, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley had 94 college freshman fill out questionnaires detailing how often they’d experienced different emotions (from anger to inspiration and enthusiasm) in the past month.

It’s linked with less selfish, more social behavior

friends laughing

Not only are people who’ve recently experienced awe more likely to interact with others, they’re also more likely to act in a way that is kind, generous, and compassionate.

A small 2012 study, for example, found that when people were shown something new and awe-inspiring — even if it was only briefly and whether or not they were simply recalling an experience, reading about someone else’s or experiencing it for themselves — they were more likely to feel happier, less constrained by time, and more willing to volunteer their time to help others compared with people who were simply shown something that made them feel happy.

The takeaway

Experiencing awe is, well, awesome.

And certain activities — from being in nature to listening to music, making art, and watching others accomplish big goals — appear to help us experience it. So go to a concert, take a trip, or be there for a friend’s performance.

You’ll likely feel happier and make others around you feel better, too.

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