Have you ever wondered what wonder can do for you? Imagine for a moment you are standing at the edge of the ocean or a vast canyon. Or perhaps you are looking up at a skyscraper, or the moon and constellations in the night sky. That feeling of being small comes from a sense of awe and wonder and has big positive health benefits for our physical and emotional wellness.
A recent Medscape article defined awe as a positive emotion felt in the presence of something bigger than oneself that cannot be immediately understood. Awe leads us to change our perception, our frame of reference. It helps us see ourselves as part of something bigger. It helps us feel humbled and want to engage with and connect with others.
The beauty of awe and wonder is how easy it is. All you need is a slight shift in perspective. And what better time than spring to see the world anew? Wonder comes naturally to kids; their worlds haven’t been adultified. Have you ever seen a baby pet a dog or cat? But even if you’ve got adulting coming out of your ears, you can reap the benefits of wonder and awe. Studies have shown it can:
- Lower stress
- Reduce inflammation
- Boost mood
- Support immunity
You don’t have to go somewhere far away on vacation to do this. Here are just a few ways in which you can make wonder and awe a part of your daily life and start feeling good right away.
- Go on an awe walk. Walking alone, with no phones or distractions, look at the world around you with a childlike sense of wonder. Notice the vastness of big things and the intricate detail of small things. Seek out a new place to walk each time. Try it for fifteen minutes at least once per week for a month. In a recent study, adults who did this saw an increase in prosocial emotions, decreased feelings of distress, and bigger smiles. Yes, they measured smiles.
- Look at vacation photos of a time when you visited a remarkable place. Even that trip to the waterpark counts.
- Look at a photo of Earth from space.
- Look at the Milky Way. If you live in the city, you may have to take a drive outside city limits for this one. See #5.
- Go camping.
- Attend a concert or a sporting event, if you can do so safely
- Play pretend with a little kid
- Watch an awe-inspiring video
- Take a ride on a Ferris wheel.
- Look at a work of art or listen to a piece of music that is meaningful to you.
The cool thing is? It gets easier with practice. Which means you’re well on your way to living your best life.
Joanna Willis, L.Ac.
Sturm, V. E., Datta, S., Roy, A. R. K., Sible, I. J., Kosik, E. L., Veziris, C. R., Chow, T. E., Morris, N. A., Neuhaus, J., Kramer, J. H., Miller, B. L., Holley, S. R., & Keltner, D. (2020). Big smile, small self: Awe walks promote prosocial positive emotions in older adults. Emotion. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1037/emo0000876