The popular Lego Movie gave us that catchy tune, But what exactly is awe? Most people have experienced awe but typically find it difficult to describe. In other words, there are no words except perhaps for gobsmacked.

Awe is actually an emotion, one that can be stimulated by both the sacred, like a beautiful sunset, as well as the foreboding, such as a severe thunder storm.

Awe can be also generated in the presence of great art, music, dance, luscious landscapes and even celestial events like a comet or eclipse.

How such encounters captivate the human mind and send it into a near mystical state has long been a mystery, but one that has recently attracted the attention of neuroscientists who study the inner workings of the brain.

Summer Allen, Ph.D., is a Research/Writing Fellow at University of California-Berkeley, She recently wrote an article in the UC-B’s Greater Good Magazine about a Dutch research project that has made some interesting discoveries about awe.

The study was published in the journal Human Brain Mapping by scientists at the University of Amsterdam. They were successfully able to visualize the events that take place in the brain when humans experience awe. Remarkably, they found that being in a state of awe may help to regulate emotions. This is especially important for people who have Borderline Personality Disorder as well as other mental health conditions where emotional dysregulation is a diagnostic feature.

In her analysis of the study results, Dr. Allen proposes that “awe may help stop us from ruminating on our problems and daily stressors. Instead, awe seems to pull us out of ourselves and make us feel immersed in our surroundings and the larger world.”

You can read Dr. Allen’s article online and also link to the original research paper

The notion that human encounters with beauty can be transformative has long been the purvue of poets. Now it look as if scientists can show how that works.

Best of all, many things that are awesome are all around and easily accessible. All you have to do is look as the noted American naturalist and poet John Muir described with these words.….

“This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never all dried at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls.”

Have you experienced awe in your life? Using the form below please tell us what that was like for you and the emotional effect it had on you.

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