Finding Awe Amid Everyday Splendor

A new field of psychology has begun to quantify an age-old intuition: Feeling awe is good for us.

For the last two decades, Keltner, a professor of psychology at UC Berkeley, has been a leading light of a scientific movement to examine our least-understood emotional state in all its gauzy complexity. His latest book, “Awe,” describes two decades of research and arrives at a radical conclusion. Far from being an undefinable caprice, awe, to Keltner, is a panacea, an evolutionary tool that holds the key to humanity’s capacity to flourish in groups.

On an average day, a person might come to a place like Point Reyes without feeling anything more profound than a slight unburdening of the soul. But if you lean into that feeling even for just a moment, the benefits can be manifold. Proponents of this new science believe that experiencing awe may be an essential pathway to physical and mental well-being. By taking us out of ourselves and expanding our sense of time, it counteracts the self-focus and narcissism that is the root of so much modern disenchantment. To experience awe, to fully open ourselves up to it, helps us to live happier, healthier lives.

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