Written by Hadar Naftalovich
It can be hard to stay cheerful when one leaves for work before the sun is up, and gets home after it has already set. The lack of sunlight can certainly affect mood and the added stresses of the holiday preparations can make it seem like there is little time to relax. A psychological perspective on one of the major tenets of the winter holiday season may just be what you need to get through this winter.
Miracles are a central part of the winter holidays and in our country (as in many others) reminders of these miracles are almost inescapable. Often, it is hard to see what benefits remembering these miracles our modern lives, but there is one aspect of miracles that is particularly associated with positive mental health outcomes that can help in the here and now: The spiritual emotion of awe.
Defined as an encounter with something that (1) is immensely vast in status or scope and (2) initiates a change in how one sees the world, awe can impact the way we think, feel and behave. According to recent research conducted by psychological scientists Melanie Rudd, Kathleen D. Vohs, and Jennifer Aaker from Standford University and the University of Minnesota, awe can expand “perceived time availability” and help people to feel they have more time. This, in turn, is associated with improved life satisfaction. Specifically, in a series of experiments, Rudd and colleagues found that when people had more awe and felt like they had more time, they were more likely to volunteer their time to help people, had increased preferences for experiences over materialism, had reduced impatience, felt more connected to others, and were overall happier.
The best part about awe, though, is that it is easily induced. Awe can be experienced when listening to music, reading a story, watching a short clip, looking at pictures of nature, or even remembering a previous awe-filled moment. So, whether you’re sitting at your desk without having seen the light of day for a week, sitting in traffic on that long road trip to your in-laws, frantically searching for the perfect gifts, or simply caught up in the daily stressors of the winter season – take just one moment to appreciate something awesome! It might just be the boost you need to make it through today with good cheer.