Friday, April 25, 2014

The Surprising Benefits of Awe

A recent study revealed the importance of awe, described in The Independant this way: "Awe is the emotion felt when encountering something so vast and overwhelming it alters one's mental perspective." Experiencing a sense of awe made people feel they had more time or that time had slowed or even stopped. Participants in the study also felt kinder and more patient. They also felt like spending money on experiences instead of things.

Read about the survey here.

Is it any wonder we feel stressed, rushed, unable to catch our breath? We spend our days in buildings of concrete and steel, often in small colorless cubicles. We send our children to school in cinder block buildings painted prison green with mean little playgrounds devoid of vegetation. We pollute the evening sky with neon signs from big box stores, the architecture of which is as ugly as the boxes that the items inside are packed in. This is the landscape of modern suburbia. Travel across the nation and you will see exactly the same collection of stores as the ones you shop at when you're at home.

Watch a great TED talk by James Howard Kunstler, about the ways in which ugly architecture demeans us and our communities here.  (One of my favorite TED talks of all time!)

I've long suspected that one of the problems with urban living is that, especially in the inner city, there is very little environmental beauty, natural or architectural. If we know that our emotions are affected by an ocean view or a starry night, how are they affected by the absence of those things? What are the consequences of this on children brought up in communities where the extent of access to nature are the weeds growing in cracks in the sidewalk? Certainly parts of our cities are dedicated to nature and there are museums of art and natural history but how many impoverished adults are visiting them? Students are lucky to get a field trip or two during the course of the year since awe cannot be measured on a standardized test.

Read a blog post about Eco-therapy here.

Today's assignment: Take a walk, view a lovely piece of art, or drive out of town tonight and look up. Turn off your phone and...breathe.

You're welcome.

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