The Awe Cure for the Time-Crunched

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Are you so time-crunched, impatient, and overburdened by the daily demands of job, family, health, chores, and “getting ahead” that you don’t take time to eat right, exercise, volunteer, read, or learn new things, among a thousand other life-enriching activities?

If you are – and really, who isn’t? – try adding a little awe to your life. Awe-evoking experiences make people feel like they have more time and, in turn, increase their sense of well-being. What happens is, after taking part in a jaw-dropping event, such as seeing the Grand Canyon, waking up at dawn in the Grand Tetons, or watching an awe-inspiring film, you become less impatient and concerned with material things, and more eager to take time for others and yourself – to eat better, to read new books, to help those in need, to listen to colleagues.

Researchers from Stanford and the University of Minnesota explain it like this: Experiencing awe – defined in the study as encountering “something so strikingly vast that it provokes a need to update one’s mental schemas” – forces you to focus on the present moment, expanding or elongating your sense of time. In turn, you don’t feel so time-starved, or as though life is passing you by quickly in a rapid succession of to-do lists and necessary or unforeseen hurdles. Instead, you take time to enjoy what is happening in the “extended now” – a moment unconstrained by man’s perception of time. You become more interested in learning new things, participating in leisure activities, and taking the time to do things you wouldn’t when feeling rushed, like going for a trail run or sitting down for dinner with your family. Your satisfaction for these day-to-day activities warms and builds, increasing both your well-being and mental health.

You don’t have to take a trip to some unbelievable vista or find that one wonder-inducing movie to reap awe’s benefits. According to the study, awe is anything experienced that is so vast or overwhelming that it alters the way you perceive the world. This can include seeing a natural event like a thunderstorm, undergoing a personal transition like the birth of a child, accomplishing an amazing athletic feat, or witnessing some unfathomable structure, like an unbelievable flocking of birds or impressive city skyline. [Study: Awe Expands the Perception of Time]