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Why a dose of awe and wonder does us good

I’ve just come back from 16 glorious days in the Great Victorian Desert where every day brought new sights and sounds that frequently stopped me in my tracks as I stood still and marvelled.

It was an ‘awesome’ trip in every sense of the word.

 

When did you last experience awe?

Was it while standing under the black mantle of a starry night gazing at the Milky Way?

Was it on a holiday where you visited a well-known monument – the Taj Mahal or La Familia Segrada in Barcelona?

Was it when you got to stand on the edge of the Grand Canyon or to hear exquisite music being played at the Sydney Opera House?

 

The magic of awe is only now starting to be better understood.

It is the feeling of being in the presence of something vast, transcending our existing understanding of the world. It is a complex emotion. When gazing out into space it can make us feel small and insignificant compared to the vastness of the Universe. Our concerns and worries feel less important as we gain greater perspective of what’s really important to us.

It also creates a sense of connection.

The John Templeton Foundation writing about the science of awe suggests awe helps us to be adaptive to change by encouraging us to take note of the new information and to adjust our thoughts and understanding accordingly to better survive and adjust.

Keltner and Haidt (2003) proposed awe comes in a number of flavours, threat, beauty, ability, virtue and supernatural causality.

Threat based, such as being caught in an electrical storm or cyclone.

Beauty based such as being in the presence of beautiful nature or a beautiful person.

Ability based such as watching two tennis greats thrashing each other in the Wimbledon finals.

 

What kinds of awe have you experienced, and which do you enjoy the most?

Awe can bring about physiological effects such as being moved to tears, experiencing that tingle down your spine or flush of goosebumps. It’s also reported to assist in lowering levels of chronic inflammation.

Psychologically and socially, awe produces a number of positive effects. Our perception of time passing expands as does our level of positive emotion leading to higher levels of generosity and kindness, humility and connectedness to others.

In other words, the benefits of awe and wonder go beyond the feel-good factor.

Had you considered how it can help you at work too?

What if a regular dose of spine tingling wonder could lead you to be more curious to learn, to be more cooperative, generous and make better decisions

What if taking time out to experience more moments of awe, reminded you, you have all the time you need. What difference would that make to your sense of feeling less time-pressured and your level of stress? How would that impact your overall performance?

What if experiencing more awe increased your intention to be more prosocial. How could that impact your level of job satisfaction and fulfillment? 

 

There are a number of ways to enjoy more awe and wonder.*

1. You could take an ‘awe’ walk. When visiting the Blue Mountains in 2019 I found awe at every corner of the track we walked along. The views were truly ‘awesome’! (sic)

2. You could go to a concert or listen to an artist playing their instrument and immerse yourself in their expertise and ability.

3. You could visit a national park, aquarium or a museum with a new exhibition or artwork you’ve wanted to see.

4. You could trek to the far North to see the Northern lights.

5. You could design an awe-inspiring work or living space with different colours, light and textures.

6. You could do something for the thrill of that adrenaline rush. A bungy-jump, sky dive or go white-water rafting.

7. You could visit “Old Faithful” in Yellowstone National Park 

8. You could go on a wild-life safari

9. You could go for a sky-dive 

10. You could walk on the Great Wall of China or hike to Machu Pichu in Peru

 

Where do you go for a dose of awe and wonder?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

*Covid restrictions depending

 

Dr Jenny Brockis is a medical practitioner and board-certified lifestyle medicine physician, keynote speaker and best-selling author. Her new book Thriving Mind: How to Cultivate a Good Life (Wiley) is now available for purchase

If psychological safety, resilience and mental wellbeing is something you’d like to find out more about, please contact me to set up a time for a chat.

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