Awe. We know it when we experience it. I can recall my sense of awe when I stood in the Grand Canyon feeling so tiny and insignificant, when I entered the Rose City of Petra and looked up at the astounding treasury, the first time I saw the iconic Colosseum or when my son took his first steps into my arms. But how do we describe the feeling? And how does it relate to us feeling happier? And is it possible to find awe in the everyday?
What is a sense of awe?
In his new book, Awe: The New Science of Every Day Wonder and How It can Transform Your Life, American professor of psychology and author Dr Dacher Keltner describes awe as ‘the feeling of being in the presence of something vast that transcends your understanding of the world’.
Indeed, when I asked my Happiness Club members how they would describe the feeling of awe, they used words such as overwhelmed, feeling small, fear and blew my mind.
And when I asked them to share an experience of awe most described visiting a place or experiences with nature. All stories were incredibly descriptive and those moments had stayed with them for many years. And what struck me most as people shared their experiences was the look of sheer joy on their faces as they recalled their moments of awe. We heard stories of majestic deer leaping through the mist, of sitting in a snow dug out watching the northern lights, whale watching, of traveling to Venice and meeting Jean-Claude Van Damm!
It was clear from our discussion that experiencing a sense of awe can have a positive impact on our happiness and well-being. And this is supported by the research. So, what are some of the ways in which experiencing awe can make us happier:
- It makes us feel we are part of something greater than ourselves. It therefore shifts our attention away from ourselves and shifts our perspective. It can make us see our problems and challenges differently by putting them into perspective. It boosts positive emotions. Awe can trigger positive emotions like wonder, amazement, and admiration. Our happiness club community frequently used the word WOW! When describing how awe feels. These emotions can improve our mood and increase our feelings of happiness and well-being.
- We are more mindful. When experiencing awe we are usually right there, fully present in the moment. This can help us reduce stress and anxiety and increase our overall sense of well-being.
- It increases kindness. Research has shown that experiencing awe can increase our kindness and generosity towards others. This leads to stronger social connections and increased happiness.
- It improves our physical health. Research has shown that experiencing awe can improve our immune systems and reduce inflammation, which can have positive effects on overall physical health.
- It enhances creativity. Awe can increase our creativity by shifting our perspective, encouraging new ways of thinking and stimulating our ideas and imagination.
How to find awe in everyday life
The great news is that Awe-some experiences don’t only happen when we do something dramatic or grand. In fact, we can cultivate a practice of finding awe every day.
Here are my tips for finding awe in everyday life:
- 1. Recall some experiences where you felt awe or a sense of wonder. Tune into how you felt in your body and the emotions that you felt. Become consciously aware of that feeling. That is what you are looking for in your every day.
- 2. Practice Mindfulness. Work on being more mindful and aware of the present moment so that you can take notice of the beauty and wonder in everyday life. Take time to appreciate the details in your surroundings, such as the colours of the nature around you, the architecture of the buildings, acts of kindness you witness, the people in your life and the experiences you have.
- 3. Seek out new experiences. Try new things or see things from a new perspective. Take a different route to work, walk on the other side of the road, order a different meal from your favouite restaurant, go to an art gallery, listen to new music, pick a different genre of book, or simply say YES to a new opportunity.
- 4. Surround yourself with awe inspiring people. Join groups with shared interests, join our happiness community, listen to uplifting podcasts and audiobooks, follow inspiring people or read quotes by inspirational people.
- 5. Cultivate gratitude. Practicing gratitude can help you appreciate the small wonders in life that we often take for granted. Take time each day to reflect on the things you are grateful for.
- 6. Reframe the ordinary. Sometimes it’s the simple things in life that can bring the most awe-inspiring moments. Take pleasure in everyday moments like your morning coffee, a walk in the park, or a call from a loved one.
- 7. Be intentional. Consciously choose every day to see the wonder around you.
Overall, experiencing a sense of awe can be a powerful way to increase happiness and well-being. By focusing on the present moment, seeking out new experiences, connecting with others and cultivating gratitude, you can find awe and wonder in the everyday moments of your life.
Happiness Evangelist, Life Coach, Best-Selling Author and Speaker with over 30 years of experience, helping you to live a happy and fulfilling life.
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