Awe, Happiness, and the Solar Eclipse

New interventions with beauty show a boost to happiness.

Posted Aug 21, 2017

DepositPhotos/VIA Institute
Source: DepositPhotos/VIA Institute

Upon seeing the solar eclipse in the United States today, many people are reporting feeling a boost to well-being. Is this coincidental or is it actually related to the eclipse?

We don’t have to look further than the research on character strengths to find the answer. One of the 24 character strengths is especially relevant here. It’s referred to as appreciation of beauty. This strength is expressed in many situations, most commonly in three situations in particular:

  1. When you are in nature (feeling the emotion of awe).
  2. When you observe an artistic achievement (feeling the emotion of admiration).
  3. When seeing the goodness of others expressed in action (feeling the emotion of elevation).

Awe is the emotion most at play with the solar eclipse. This means when people look up at the sky they feel a sense of wonder and connection with something larger than themselves. They may be left speechless, or be struck with an overwhelming sense of reverence — stunned by beauty and majesty that cannot be fully comprehended.

In recent research studies, the character strength behind awe, appreciation of beauty, has been found to boost happiness and even lower depression, in the short term (but not the long term). One study by Rene Proyer and colleagues divided over 100 adults into either a control group or a group that tracked nine beautiful things in nature, their environment, or in human behavior. The group that focused on “beauty” had less depression for one week and greater happiness for one month. The effects dwindled after that. Other studies focused on boosting appreciation of beauty have found comparable results.

If you find yourself feeling a bit happier after viewing the solar eclipse then perhaps you were connecting with something important outside yourself? Maybe you were reaching that sometimes-elusive feeling of awe?

Learn more about the character strength of appreciation of beauty.


Diessner, R., Woodward, D., Stacy, S., & Mobasher, S. (2015). Ten once-a-week brief beauty walks increase appreciation of natural beauty. Ecopsychology, 7, 126 -133. doi: 10.1089/eco.2015.0001

Proyer, R. T., Gander, F., Wellenzohn, S., & Ruch, W. (2016). Nine beautiful things: A self-administered online positive psychology intervention on the beauty in nature, arts, and behaviors increases happiness and ameliorates depressive symptoms. Personality and Individual Differences, 94, 189-193.