Have you ever experienced a moment of being awestruck? It’s an electrifying emotion capable of stopping us in our tracks to be completely in the moment and experience. It is the feeling of being in the presence of something beautiful, vast and greater than ourselves. We can all remember those immensely inspiring moments such as meeting the Dalai Lama or witnessing the birth of your child; however, awe can arise from those smaller moments too. When viewing an expansive vista or sacred temple or witnessing an inspiring act of kindness, we realize we are a part of something much larger than ourselves. Recent research demonstrates the healing benefits of awe in our lives—It’s power to inspire, heal, improve our mood, change our thinking and bring people together. Arizona State University psychologist Michelle Shiota shares that awe is “a basic part of being human that we all need.” It is fundamental to our emotional, physical and spiritual wellbeing.
Researchers are exploring the key ways awe impacts us. First, awe binds us together. When viewing an expansive starry night, we realize we are part of a world much greater than ourselves. Author Paula Spencer Scott cites that “Our thinking shifts from me to we.” Second, awe helps us to see things in new ways. Shiota states that awe stops us in our tracks to be in the present moment so we are receptive to details and new information. Albert Einstein described awe as “the source of all true art and science.” Third, research is proving that awe makes us happier and healthier. In studies, participants witnessing an awe inspiring moment were more kind and generous to others around them than those who were not feeling awe. The positive emotions of awe also reduce inflammation in our bodies, raise our immune systems, lower blood pressure and decrease depression and stress.
With our increasingly hectic and stressed, indoor life with our eyes glued to our devices, we are missing out on those small and larger moments of awe. It is vital to our wellbeing to put down the phone and walk outdoors to become inspired by nature and our neighbors on a daily basis. We do not have to travel far to witness awe. In Long Island City, N.Y., teacher Julie Mann takes her students on “Awe Walks” to connect with nature and art. As the children walk through their neighborhood, they explore the flora, art, music and people in their neighborhood. Mann shares that kids who rarely speak in her class open up and share their experiences, and those that struggle to focus, are engaged in the conversation. It brings the students together in a way that other activities cannot. She shares, “It helps them to feel less marginalized, with a sense that life is still good.”
There are many ways to inspire awe in your own life. I encourage you to: hike in nature, walk in the park, listen to beautiful music, tour a local museum, gaze at the moon and stars, smell a fragrant flower, taste new foods, visit an organic farm, volunteer to help others, watch an inspiring documentary, or simply observe the shadows the sun casts through the trees. Awe comes in many forms and when we mindfully observe our surrounding with all our senses, we catch those small, yet profound moments of awe.
Interested in creating more awe in your life? Let’s connect to explore ideas.
Source: Scott, Paula Spencer. (2016, October 9.) Feeling awe may be the secret to health and happiness. Parade Magazine, 6-8.
Photo source: Josh Claros @ joshclarosphotography.com