Take A Break For Good News – The Awe of the Olympic Games Philip Meehan, SACAC Counselling


Between the Summer and Winter Olympics, every two years we celebrate athletic achievement on the world’s biggest stage. More than just celebrating, the feats we witness and stories we read can be truly awe inspiring, from athleticism and perseverance to sportsmanship and nation building. This sense of awe can have a profound effect on daily lives and experiences. Though still in its early stages, the study of awe is starting to show the tangible benefits to individuals and society when we experience goosebumps.

Dacher Keltner, Ph.D., UC Berkeley professor of psychology and founding director of the Greater Good Science Center, is a ground-breaking researcher on awe. So far, his research shows that:

“Experiencing awe seem(s) to make (people) more inclined to help someone in need… We have found that awe—more so than emotions like pride or amusement—leads people to cooperate, share resources, and sacrifice for others, all of which are requirements for our collective life. And still other studies have explained the awe-altruism link: being in the presence of vast things calls forth a more modest, less narcissistic self, which enables greater kindness toward others.” (Keltner)

There are many ways to experience awe in daily life; most involve experiencing the the world around you. I believe that the Olympics are a great example with many moments that can leave us awestruck. Here are my top five moments so far. What are yours?

  1. Watching the super-human athletic achievements of Usain Bolt as he smiled his way to another Olympic gold medal.
  2. Reading about swimmer Yusra Mardini of the Refugee Olympic Team, who literally saved 18 lives when she and her sister swam their broken down boat to shore.
  3. Witnessing the incredible sportsmanship shown by American Abbey D’Agostino and Kiwi Nikki Hamblin who helped each other in turn to finish the 5000m race after a collision.
  4. Experiencing the euphoria and pride shown by Singapore after Joseph Schooling won Singapore’s second gold medal ever (after paralympian Yip Pin Xiu’s 2008 gold medal in the S3 50 backstroke).
  5. Seeing the hope in the selfie taken by gymnasts Lee Eun-ju of South Korea and Hong Un-jong of the North after their competition (5).

This isn’t to gloss over the problems of the games, and oh, there are problems. But for two weeks, and individual moments in time, it’s OK to take a break for good news and experience  the best of humanity on display at the Olympics. And if the feelings you feel are more than just positive and uplifting, but actually awe, you might find yourself being changed as well.

Keltner, Dacher. “Why Do We Feel Awe?” Greater Good. UC Berkeley, 10 May 2016. Web. 17 Aug. 2016. <http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/why_do_we_feel_awe>.

More on the moments:

  1. http://www.news.com.au/sport/olympics/sports-life/usain-bolt-photo-taken-by-an-australian-thats-sent-the-internet-into-meltdown/news-story/f71b44ef114c2cdfba4146eb7a8c2b0b
  2. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/02/sports/olympics/a-swimmer-goes-from-syria-to-rio-from-refugee-to-olympian.html?_r=0
  3. http://olympics.cbc.ca/news/article/nikki-hamblin-shows-true-olympic-spirit-000m-race.html
  4. http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/hundreds-welcome-joseph-schoolings-triumphant-homecoming
  5. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-37018914

Written By:                                                                                                            Phil Meehan                                                                                          Counsellor and Coach                                                                                        SACAC Counselling

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