So what is awe?
Researchers at UC Berkeley tell us that "awe happens when you encounter something so vast that you don't feel like you can wrap your mind around it completely." Awe involves the magic of life, like birth, or something in nature so beautiful you can't fully describe it or, even feeling connected and completely understood by another human being. That, to many, is awesome.
To researcher Craig Anderson "awe is a response to things that are perceptually vast, that we don’t fully understand at the moment. This makes it a very unique emotion. We find behaviors associated with awe that are adaptive in situations that are super novel, like trying to connect with other people or just being curious. When faced with something that blows your mind, you want to find out more information."
The benefits of feeling being awe inspired? For one thing, this powerful emotion takes you out of your head and into your heart where you see and feel things differently. To veterans suffering from PTSD, awe can alleviate symptoms of stress and feeling overwhelmed. Being in nature camping or hiking or river rafting, mentally and emotionally take you to another place where you plain old feel better.
Taking the awe of nature one step further, a study published in Environmental Health Perspectives shows that living closer to nature is better for your health, and may even extend your life. "Exposure to Greenness and Mortality in a Nationwide Prospective Cohort Study of Women" by Peter James, Jaime E. Hart, Rachel F. Banay, and Francine Laden, indicates that people living in the greenest places — that is, people who had the most vegetation within 800 feet of their homes — had a 12 percent lower rate of mortality from any non-accidental cause than people living in the least green places. Specifically, they found that the relationship was strongest for deaths related to respiratory disease, cancer and kidney disease. These results were the same regardless of the participants’ income, weight or smoking status and also did not significantly change between urban and suburban locations.
For more information on the study Nature and Mortality, please click here.