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Heart & Home

Feeling Down? Get Awesome

Let's face it, there are plenty of moments in life that can increase your stress level and make us angrier than we already are. Traffic, heat waves, Lil Wayne, the list goes on and on to the point that at times it's easier picking out the things that make us upset than the things that make us happier and calmer. Thankfully, there are some moments that do that, we just have to find them and soak them in more than we do now.

The key to increasing our general happiness, according to psychologists, is to find the proper moments that truly take our breath away. No, we're not talking about the first time you saw Star Wars. We're talking about seeing the Grand Canyon or watching a spectacular lightning storm. View enough of these awe-inspiring moments and you have what experts call "awe therapy," which they theorize will make you a happier person.

Scotland's The Herald reports that to figure this out, a team of researchers from Stanford University in California asked volunteers to watch two sets of videos. One featured people in a city street encountering "awesome" images, such as a waterfall or astronauts floating through space. Another set of participants viewed images that were merely "happy," such as confetti falling and people celebrating at a sporting event. The results showed that people who saw the awesome video reported being happier. Lead scientist Melanie Rudd pointed out that the key was time. When a moment is big enough our mental state is altered and we think time has slowed down, which in turn makes us think we have more time. And who doesn't like that?

"Drawing on research showing that being in the present moment elongates time perception, we predicted and found that experiencing awe, relative to other states, caused people to perceive they have more time available and lessened impatience," Rudd told the United Kingdom's The Independent. "Furthermore, by altering time perception, feeling awe led participants to more strongly desire to spend time helping others and partake in experiential goods over material ones."

This all sounds great, but life doesn't exactly lend itself to awesome moments. Unless you live in Niagara Falls and can see that water gushing over every day. But even that city isn't perfect. It's much easier to stumble upon the crappy moments or the just "happy" moments than anything that will make you feel awe. Rudd said all is not lost. Even the tiniest exposure to awesome moments will help.

"A small dose of awe even gave participants a momentary boost in life satisfaction," explained Rudd. "Thus, these results also have implications for how people spend their time, and underscore the importance and promise of cultivating awe in everyday life."

Now the next time your significant other says you're grumpy, just tell him or her that it's not your fault, and that they need to "cultivate awe" in order for you to be happier. Let us know how that goes.

[Pic via Flickr - John Loo]

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