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Five ways to bring more awe into your life

Experiencing more awe can alter our perception of time, research shows. Here are five ways to seek it out

Experiencing more awe can alter our perception of time, research shows. Here are five ways to seek it out

Does it feel like the days are hurtling by; that time is slipping through your fingers? Then perhaps you need some awe in your life.

A growing body of research suggests that experiencing awe slows our perception of time – a phenomenon known as time dilation.

In one recent study – led by George Mason University in Virginia, US – 100 participants were shown pictures of vast scenes and small cluttered spaces, such as cupboards. Researchers found that people were more likely to think they had been looking at small scenes for a shorter period than they had been, whereas the opposite was true for larger scenes.

Prof Martin Wiener, co-author of the study, said that time dilation could be a result of our brains working harder as they try to gather information about scenes that we find memorable.

As well as ‘slowing’ time, experiencing awe is linked with a range of positive health benefits, including improved mood, lower stress and, according to one study, a greater propensity towards kindness. It begs the questions; what is awe and how do we bring more of it into our lives?

Five ways to bring more awe into your life

Experiencing vastness - whether physical or conceptual - triggers awe. Image: Joshua Earle

In his 2021 book, Awestruck, psychologist Jonah Paquette says that awe experiences have two main components: encountering “vastness”and experiencing transcendence (essentially, opening yourself up to such vastness, even if it doesn’t make sense to you).

Vastness could be an expansive view, say of a mountain range, but it can also be a concept that’s hard to get your head around, such as the size of the universe.

But you don’t have to travel through space to experience vastness. Here are five ways to bring more awe into your lives.

Five ways to bring more awe into your life
1. Embrace nature

Awesome is an overused word, but it’s apt for describing nature. The natural world inspires awe not just because it is physically vast, but because it is full of tiny miracles that are hard to wrap our heads around. It could be a spider’s web, the blooming of spring or the patterns on a humble leaf. Go on a walk, lean into this vastness and consider these natural miracles.

Image: Maros Misove


2. Notice the small things

Many of us find ourselves rushing through life on autopilot, scarcely noticing the finer details in the everyday as our brains frantically try to process information. But by slowing down and being more attentive to commonplace experiences – the smell of dinner, say, or the sound of sparrows twittering – psychologist Jonah Paquette reckons we will open ourselves up to more everyday awe.

Image: Calum Lewis

3. Escape your comfort zone

Awe can also come from newness. And newness plays clever tricks with our minds.“Unfamiliarity – new experiences, new environments, any kind of newness – slows down our perception [of time],”says Dr Steve Taylor, a lecturer at Leeds Beckett University and author of the book Making Time.“Go to new places, try new things, meet new people – and be attentive to the experience,” he advises.

Image: Maksym Ivashchenko

Five ways to bring more awe into your life
4. Go analogue

We have all, surely, done it: missed some spectacular experience because we were busy inanely scrolling through our phones. Paquette recommends regularly stepping away from screens so that we can exist undistracted in the analogue world, where you are more likely to experience awe. This will also probably make you a more fun person to hang out with.

Image: Ales Krivec

Five ways to bring more awe into your life
5. Savour the moment

When you do encounter something genuinely awesome, hold onto it. You might be tempted to take a photo and perhaps post it to social media. Instead, try to savour the moment. And when you get home, write about it. According to Paquette, doing so could help decrease the sense of time pressure that stalks us all, while returning you to that magical moment.

Image: Lightscape
Main image: Drif Riadh

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