How a sense of awe can help you live longer

Christians have always been on the awe bandwagon. We look at a radiant sunset and marvel at the Creator’s unfathomable greatness and artistry. And our inner being glows with gratitude and happiness.

We contemplate the infinite variety of plants and animals and wonder at their intricate, precise and occasionally humorous designs (see picture above). The awe and amazement we feel give us some fleeting insight into the wonderful mind of God that we worship.

It’s a theme author and journalist Julia Baird eloquently explored in her acclaimed book, Phosphorescence, where she searched for ways we can pursue awe and wonder when the world goes dark.

Now science has proven what Christian believers have known all along – a sense of awe is a fundamental way of protecting and preserving a healthy mind and body.

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A new three-part ABC TV series, How To Live Younger, starting tonight, examines the rigorous and robust scientific research that shows how we can prolong our time on earth while also remaining well.

The focus of the first and last of those episodes is predictable – the value of daily exercise and a healthy diet. But the second episode looks at the scientific evidence that we can increase our “healthspan” by cultivating a sense of awe. Well, of course! That’s how God designed us, to have a deep-seated need to worship and glorify him!

According to scientists at top institutions around the world, happiness, social connection, peace of mind, placebos and even experiencing a sense of awe can change our lives for the better.

Hosted by author and ABC Radio’s Jacinta Parsons, the new series shows that scientists believe it could be possible to prevent many of the “diseases of ageing”, such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and depression, allowing people to flourish into advanced age.

Perhaps we’ll go back to the days of the Bible’s early patriarchs such as Methuselah (who lived 969 years) and when we die we will be, in my favourite phrase, “full of years”.

How To Live Younger – Series 1, Episode 1 airs Tuesday 21 September 9.30pm on ABC and iview