How to Experience More Awe (And Why It’s Important)
xperiencing awe is an emotion comparable to wonder.
When we experience awe, it is a feeling like we’re in the presence of something larger than ourselves — be it a natural wonder, a work of art, or feats of athleticism or altruism — that defies our understanding of the world and makes us feel like we’re one small part of a vast, interconnected universe.
For me, I experienced a sense of awe as I watched the recent supermoon rise in the sky. Personally, being a new mom also inspires a sense of awe. Watching my new son learn and and grow is captivating.
Perhaps you experienced awe at some point this year as well? Be it outside in nature or at a music concert, a social gathering, or another remarkable event — the setting matters less than the feeling it evokes.
The Benefits of Awe
Awe is an emotion that — like gratitude and happiness before it — was long neglected as a topic worthy of scientific attention. However, several studies published in 2015 suggest some profound, previously overlooked benefits associated with awe.
One such study by UC Berkeley psychologist Dacher Keltner found that experiencing the emotion of awe and wonder can promote healthier levels of cytokines. High levels of cytokines are associated with poorer health and disorders such and heart disease, arthritis, and even Alzheimer’s disease and clinical depression.
This suggests that the things we do to experience awe — a walk in nature, losing oneself in music, beholding art — have a direct influence on our mental and physical health as well as our life expectancy.
We all know that a healthy diet and lots of sleep and exercise bolster the body’s defenses against physical and mental illnesses. The Berkeley study is one of the first to look at the role of awe and other positive emotions and how they impact our health.
So rather than creating another goal or New Year’s resolution, consider setting a simple intention of experiencing a sense of awe every day. Be present, take notice, savor experiences, and marvel at the world around you. Fall in love with life again.
How to Add More Awe to Your Life
How can we experience a sense of awe more often? Here are three simple ways.
- Look up.
Awe can happen for us in the simplest of moments, such as walking home from work and looking up at the evening sky. No matter your schedule or the time of day, take more time out of your day to look up at the changing sky and appreciate the wonder that’s always right above us.
- Get outside in nature.
Nature is the ultimate source of awe. Just being outside can conjure up feelings of wonder and give you a bigger perspective on life. Try going for a walk in a local park during your lunch break, playing in the back yard with your kids, or planning a weekend hike in a spot that’s known for its vast spaces and natural beauty.
- Crowdsource experiences.
Spending time in large groups — whether at concerts, a yoga or meditation class, a family dinner, or political rallies — often stirs feelings of awe. Participating in social experiences can be a particularly effective way to create a sense of awe.
Share the Awe
Not only does awe boost our health, but it also makes us more likely to be kind and generous to others.
Awe can help shift our focus from our narrow self-interest — motivating us to act in collaborative ways that facilitate the development of cohesive communities. In fact, awe just might be the ultimate “collective” emotion, for it motivates people to do things that enhance the greater good.
Now is the time to insist on experiencing more awe every day. Make a point of actively seeking out those things that give you goosebumps or inspire a sense of wonder. Your health and our world will be better for it.