Getting out into nature can do more for a person’s mind, body, and soul than you may think. Take, for example, the fact that simply being near any body of water can make humans feel calmer, and elevate a person’s level of happiness. And that’s not all nature can do. She can also make us feel something extremely powerful that scientists call “awe.”
But what exactly constitutes “awe” anyway? That’s a little harder to characterize, but the Association for Psychological Science attempted to define it as an emotion humans feel after experiencing something “magnificent and powerful.” And many of those awe-inducing experiences can be found in nature.
“The power of nature to both heal and inspire awe has been noted by many great thinkers. However, no study has examined how the impact of nature on well-being and stress-related symptoms is explained by experiences of awe,” a group of researchers noted in their new findings.
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As Psychology Today explained, the team wanted to determine if spending time in nature indeed does result in a better sense of well-being through experience an awe-inspiring moment. To come to its conclusion, the team took 52 at-risk-youths and 72 military veterans on either a one-day or four-day whitewater rafting trip. The participants journaled their feelings on each day of the trip. Then, a week after the trip, the researchers asked the participants to follow up with a questionnaire. The researchers found that even well after the trip ended, the participant’s well-being remained elevated.
And that’s not all. In a second study by Stanford University, researchers found that experiencing awe can actually change people’s perception of time itself.
“Three experiments showed that participants who felt awe, relative to other emotions, felt they had more time available and were less impatient,” the team wrote in its abstract. “Participants who experienced awe also were more willing to volunteer their time to help other people, more strongly preferred experiences over material products, and experienced greater life satisfaction.”
The team added that experiences of awe “bring people into the present moment, and being in the present moment underlies awe’s capacity to adjust time perception, influence decisions, and make life feel more satisfying than it would otherwise.”
If you’re hoping to have your own awe moment with nature, try planning a visit to one of these natural wonders of the South. Just try not to let your jaw drop when you get there.