Watching magic makes you happier and healthier. As long as it’s really impressive, astonishing and awe-inspiring magic. That’s what science is showing in the new Parade article, “Feeling Awe May Be the Secret to Health and Happiness.” And it’s not the first time that scientists are providing proof for what magicians have been instinctually uncovering for centuries.
As a professional magician I have the front row to the amazing reactions that occur when people see magic. As the one responsible for creating such moments of astonishment, I’m also the first to feel the blast of energy when audience members jump up, scream in shock, or — and this is considered to be the highest level of response by audiences to magicians — stare at you blankly, silently, in pure awe of what they just witnessed.
Magicians celebrate this “moment of astonishment.” Even that phrase — popularized by magic inventor, Paul Harris — represents a certain type of magic that we know leaves an indelible impression. The best magicians strive to go beyond fooling you with a trick, because we know and have seen how great magic can be a life-changing experience. We strive to “unleash the moment” and let it last as long as possible.
In simple layman’s terms, we create this pause in time, where for a few seconds, the audience is frozen in their thoughts, unable to process the new information because it doesn’t align with their past experiences. For a brief moment the world doesn’t make any sense. However, because the audience knows they are experiencing entertainment in a safe environment, their system is relaxed. Instead of shooting them into a fight or flight response, the audience members can simply revel in the moment and bathe in the awe-some experience. And apparently, this can be as beneficial to them as taking a hike, going rafting or staring up in the sky and pondering their existence.
According to Arizona State University psychologist Michelle Shiota, quoted in the Parade article, “Awe was thought of as the Gucci of the emotion world—cool if you have it, but a luxury item. But it’s now thought to be a basic part of being human that we all need.”
It’s rather amazing to think that one of the benefits of doing magic for someone is that you get to evoke for them the most luxurious emotion in the world! What are the other benefits of having more “awe” in your life?
Experiencing awe can alter our bodies. According to the Parade article, “Awe is the positive emotion that most strongly predicts reduced levels of cytokines, a marker of inflammation that’s linked to depression, according to research from University of Toronto’s Jennifer Stellar.”
Staring at that night sky and pondering the vastness of the universe can inspire awe that permanently shifts our perspective — changing it from me to we. So experiencing an amazing magic trick with friends can create a shared experience and bring you closer together. How’s that for bonding?!
The Parade article also quotes the now famous Albert Einstein quote, which magicians love to weave into their performances. “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom the emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand wrapped in awe, is as good as dead —his eyes are closed.”
So that’s what magic does. It keeps you alive by taking your breath away. For a few astonishing moments, it leaves you in a state of awe. And that, it turns out, can help heal heal your body and connect you to others.
Performing magic and bringing joy and laughter into the world has been my greatest purpose in life — my raison d'être. I’ve always celebrated these moments of magic because I’ve seen how positively they impact the people I perform for. Now it’s even nicer to know that, scientifically, these moments can do much more.
I’ll see you at the next magic show!
- “Feeling Awe May Be the Secret to Health and Happiness”
- “Rush of wild nature lowers PTSD in veterans, at-risk teens”
- “How Awe-Inspiring Experiences Can Make You Happier, Less Stressed And More Creative”