Awe is an emotion that has a powerful impact on you and it is experienced with your entire body. You might, for example, get goose-bumps, tears may flood your eyes and a smile is often transfixed on your face. When we are children, these moments seem to flood our daily lives. However, as we grow up experiencing moments of awe seems to be few and far between.
This is often because the idea of awe is reserved for rare, life-changing experiences and events. However, it is important that we don’t limit our wonder to these moments, as experiencing awe can be more than just a pleasant experience - it also has a profound effect on your brain, body and overall sense of well-being.
The positive impact of awe
The positive impact of experiencing awe can have a remarkable effect on your overall health, leading to many positive psychologists to study its effect on people. Michelle Shiota, associate professor in the Arizona State University Department of Psychology, studies awe and how it and other positive emotions affect our brains and behaviour. Michelle Shiota says awe is the most undervalued positive emotion by researchers and society. She says that ‘awe is often thought of as the Gucci handbag of emotions, it’s nice if you can afford one, but that handbag is not something people actually need. I think this perception reflects a profound error in how we value the different benefits that emotion can provide.’ Michelle’s research backs this up finding that when people feel awe their mind clears and they can experience more focus on this positive emotion.
Experiencing awe can also dampen the body’s stress response and change how you process information. Other recent studies mirror these benefits and have found that the experience of awe enhances critical thinking, has a positive impact on your physical health and boosts your mental wellbeing.
How to feel awe more often
1. Spend time in nature
A key ingredient of awe is a sense of vastness and a feeling that you are experiencing something much larger than yourself. One of the easiest ways to evoke this feeling is by spending time in nature, whether it’s a weekend hike, heading to the beach, planning a camping trip, or spending your lunchtime in a local park. Connect with nature and tune into its grandeur.
2. Spend time in repositories of awe
Throughout history, human beings have collected, preserved and curated ways for people to experience wonder in a variety of places. These repositories of awe can include conservatories, libraries, historical sites, museums and art galleries. They house thought-provoking collections and offer an opportunity to marvel at the past and even present. Take some time out to explore these repositories within your city, country and beyond to broaden your thinking and stir-up some awe.
3. Celebrate greatness
It is common to feel awe-struck when you’re faced with greatness. This could be the unrivalled energy of a sporting match, the admiration we feel when reading an accomplished person’s biography, or the inspiration we feel after watching a motivational talk. By immersing ourselves in the impressive talents of others and even connecting with the struggles they have overcome to achieve greatness can help you feel a sense of awe and inspiration.
4. Record your awe
Create an ‘awe-journal’ or ‘awe-portfolio’ and record your experiences of amazement with purpose and meaning. This could be through writing, videos, photos or even social media, as long as it compiles your most powerful awesome experiences. This can impact you on two levels, as it encourages you to reflect upon and appreciate the wonderful moments of your life, which will increase your sense of gratitude. It also gives you a compilation of all the awe-inspiring moments of your life, which is a great reference for the future.
Awe doesn’t have to feel like an unattainable emotion, instead, it can be found in our daily lives if we choose to look for it. Furthermore, experiencing something awesome helps calm our mind, increases our gratitude and reduces stress in our bodies.
What are some of the most awe-inspiring moments of your life? Tell us in the comments below.
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