How to get through life’s uncomfortable moments (without meditation)

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Life is full of uncomfortable moments that you just have to grit your teeth and get through – waiting for a loved one to call back (or not), waiting to hear back about medical results, waiting to see if you’ve gotten into Yale Law, waiting for the excruciatingly slow bus. And when you’re in a state of pique, you’re probably not a state to meditate your way through it.

Maybe you need an attitude adjustment: when’s the last time you felt a little wonder and awe at the universe? According to new research, that feeling may be what’s needed to get you through one of life’s most uncomfortable type of moments: the waiting period. Specifically, waiting where you have no control over the outcome.

“Watching even a short video that makes you feel awe can … counteract stress.”

Kate Sweeney, a professor of psychology at University of California, Riverside, had already conducted research that found meditation and other activities that required a state of “flow,” like video games, does help people with their worry during waiting. But she knew this method wouldn’t be a cure-all.

“Meditation is not for everyone, and it can be difficult to achieve a state of flow when worry is raging out of control,” Sweeney said in a release.

Her latest study indicates that inducing a state of awe or a state of wonder through music or a film may be another way to relax yourself while getting through a tense period of waiting.

The study

The researchers conducted two studies, totaling 729 participants. In the first test, the participants took a fake intelligence assessment. In the second test, participants were made to believe they were waiting to learn about how the other participants in the study perceived them.

In both tests, participants watched one of three movies that induced various levels of awe.

  • The first was an “awe” video – a high-definition video of a sunrise with instrumental music.

  • The second was a positive control video of cute animals meant to create happy feelings, but now awe.

  • The third video was a neutral video about how padlocks are made.

The awe has it

Researchers found that those who watched the “awe” video experienced significantly more positive emotions and less anxiety during the period waiting for the results of their intelligence tests and peer assessments

“Our research shows that watching even a short video that makes you feel awe can make waiting easier, boosting positive emotions that can counteract stress in those moments,” said Sweeney.

She hopes to use the technique out in the real world to give people relief while they wait.