Archive | November 2014

Happiness Practice #11: Writing About Awe

For the past eight weeks. I have been engaged in an Edx programme, “The Science of Happiness” this is today’s assignment:


This exercise asks you to recall and describe a time when you experienced awe. Awe is an emotion that is elicited by experiences that challenge and expand our typical way of seeing the world. Research suggests that awe involves sensing the presence of something greater than the self, along with decreased self-consciousness and a decreased focus on minor, everyday concerns. Experiences of awe have been shown to expand people’s perception of time and improve life satisfaction.

Time required

15 minutes


Think back to a time when you felt a sense of awe regarding something you witnessed or experienced. Awe has been defined as a response to things that are perceived as vast and overwhelming and that alter the way you understand the world. This sense of vastness can be physical (e.g., a panoramic view from a mountaintop) or psychological (e.g., a brilliant idea). People may experience awe when they are in the presence of a beautiful natural landscape or work of art, when they watch a moving speech or performance, when they witness an act of great altruism, or when they have a spiritual or religious experience.

Try to think of the most recent experience you’ve had that involved the feeling of awe. Once you identify something, describe it in writing with as much detail as possible.

Evidence that it works

Rudd, M., Vohs, K. D., & Aaker, J. (2012). Awe expands people’s perception of time, alters decision making, and enhances well-being. Psychological Science, 23(10), 1130-1136.

In three experiments, participants who were induced to feel awe, compared with other emotions, felt that they had more time available, were less impatient, were more willing to volunteer their time to help others, preferred experiences over material products, and reported greater life satisfaction.

Why it works

Taking time out to reflect on past experiences of awe can help people break up their routine and challenge themselves to think in new ways. Evoking feelings of awe may be especially helpful when people are feeling bogged down by day-to-day concerns. Research suggests that awe has a way of lifting people outside of their usual selves and connecting them with something larger and more significant. This sense of broader connectedness and purpose can help relieve negative moods and improve happiness.

For More

Shiota, M. N., Keltner, D., & Mossman, A. (2007). The nature of awe: Elicitors, appraisals, and effects on self-concept. Cognition and Emotion, 21(5), 944-963.


Melanie Rudd, University of Houston

Here’s my awe-some moment:

” My first child, Jennifer Victoria was born on 24th May 1980. I went into the hospital,Rush Green, near Romford in Essex, six weeks before the anticipated event, due to high blood pressure. I would have been bored, but I was studying for my BA with The Open University. So I had plenty to occupy my mind, and to be frank, I have never found staying in bed for extended periods of time to be much of a problem …

I will spare you details of my labour which was three days long, and ended with spinal anastheasia, which was amazing. Not an easy delivery, but safe, and resulting in the arrival of this beautiful child. Who now has three children of her own.

Giving birth is pretty awesome anyway, but afterwards as I sat exhausted and exhilirated holding tnis new life in my arms I had the most amazing experience. From deep within me there arose a fountain of extraordinary emotion, and I heard the voice of God:

“NOW you know how much I love you!”

I wasn’t asleep or even drowsy, I was awake and if anything hyper-alert. I remember and carry with me everywhere the profound sense of joy and privilege of that precious moment when my soul touched the divine and He spoke to me. ”