The vagus nerve, science has found, enhances traits like compassion, selflessness, and friendliness through the role it plays in helping us experience awe.
Just to help you brush up on your biology, the vagus nerve is involved in many vital functions in your body. In fact, it sends impulses, both motor and sensory, to every organ in your body.
Awe is exactly what you think it is: being rendered speechless by something incredibly awesome.
There Is A Deep Connection Between The Vagus Nerve And Awe
It could be a breathtaking panoramic view or a brilliant sunset. Maybe a unique exotic animal or bird awed you. Or you heard a brilliant piece of music. Maybe you watched an incredibly engaging and rousing movie.
I think you get the idea.
Awe Gets Your Senses Aroused And Mesmerizes You
You feel small, and insignificant in the presence of something greater than yourself. You don't want the experience to end because you enjoy it at a spiritual level.
Studies have found over the years that these experiences reduced traits associated with narcissism such as greed, materialism, narrow-mindedness, selfishness, and so forth.
The reason awe makes you think more of others and care for them more deeply, according to research, is that it gives people an alternative sense of themselves.
Awe humbles people, and it makes them feel like smaller parts of something much greater than they can imagine.
This effectively deals with their delusions of grandeur and reduces egocentrism and preoccupation with self.
People Essentially Lose Themselves During Awe
You can literally forget yourself, sort of like you are having an out-of-body experience, when awed.
You feel that there is something much better and amazing beyond everything you knew or imagined.
According to researchers, awe creates a form of "self-distancing" and it promotes interest in collective goals. As in, you think less about yourself.
Once awed, someone doesn't want to be on their own but desires to be part of something greater than themselves. This is according to a study by Keltner and Piff from New York University.
The experiment involved a set up that was supposed to inspire pride, awe, and neutral reaction in its subjects.
When the results came in, it was realized that awe was strongly related to pro-social behavior. Pro-social behavior includes being positive, helpful, and friendly.
According to Piff, "Our investigation indicates that awe, although often fleeting and hard to describe, serves a vital social function.
By diminishing the emphasis on the individual self, awe may encourage people to forgo strict self-interest to improve the welfare of others.
When experiencing awe, you may not, egocentrically speaking, feel like you're at the center of the world anymore."
Yeah, that's how awe can help combat narcissism, a personality trait that makes people think the world revolves around them.
Awe Was Found To Reduce Narcissism And Self-Serving Behaviors
Based on these findings, the researchers believe that exposing people to awe can make them more likely to help others, donate to charity, and have a greater concern for the environment regardless of their personality traits.
Awe has other benefits as well. It frees you from anxieties, and it makes you less concerned with material things. It also makes you feel better towards others.
This feeling also promotes our desire to work with others, and it creates gratification and makes us more attuned to those around us.
You Can Fill Your Life With Awe
Having an interest in life is the first step. You should also have an interest in music, art, literature, and other things in the world.
Don't focus so much on yourself and appreciate the world around you. That will engage your vagus nerve and give you lots of awe-inspiring moments.
In turn, these moments will relieve your stress, reduce any self-serving tendencies you might have, and make you relate better with others and the world around you.