When was the last time you were awestruck?
I have a feeling that Covid and lockdown has reduced the number of times we get to feel awestruck, and that matters.
I stumbled across this area of research when I was trying to understand my perpetual ‘lack of time.’ I came across an article that talked about awe, and how experiencing awe on a regular basis could, perhaps, expand our perception of time:
- “One study found that people induced to feel awe felt less impatient and agreed more strongly with statements suggesting that time is plentiful and expansive as compared to feedback from a test group who were induced to feel ‘happiness’ rather than ‘awe.’
- “Awe-eliciting experiences might offer one effective way of alleviating the feeling of time starvation that plagues so many people in modern life,” the authors of the study suggested.
Ways in which awe makes you feel… awesome!
But this was just the tip of the iceberg. Awe – that feeling of amazement, smallness and largeness, a stretching of our senses and understanding – is believed to benefit us in so many other ways:
- The possibility of reduction in chronic illness as people who had experienced awe showed a reduction in their ‘inflammation markers’. Inflammation is believed to lead to chronic disease.
- Awe may help you manage stress better. Some researchers suggest that the swelling feeling you get in your chest at moments of awe is in fact your vagus nerve being activated. A well toned vagus nerve helps you maintain calm.
- Awe can expand your mind, helping you to think more critically rather than just accepting what you see.
- Awe can improve your mood and make you more satisfied with your life, including a reduced level of materialism.
- Awe can make you feel more humble, more generous, more cooperative, and more like volunteering your time (but not money).
- Awe can make you feel more connected to other people and humanity.
- Awe eases you into happiness. Read more about happiness here.
You can read more detailed explanations at these links: Eight Reasons Why Awe Makes Your Life Better and Awestruck – Discover how the feeling of awe can make us humbler, kinder, and more altruistic.
Reading these articles and more struck a chord: while there have still been moments of awe in lockdown – usually and predictably on my morning walks – I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling that perhaps I’m suffering from a deficiency in awe.
“I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling that perhaps I’m suffering from a deficiency in awe.”
Getting more awe in your lifeSo how do we go about ensuring that we’re getting a daily dose of awe? Travel restrictions mean that the usual awe triggers such as a panorama of the Himalayas, surfing the waves in Hawaii, or taking in the night skies from a desert observatory in Namibia are currently out of the question. But we can be awed closer to home, and in fact in our homes. Apparently the scientists in the articles referred to above found that watching videos, or even looking at pictures and immersing ourselves in the moment, can bring on the benefits. Here are some suggestions:
- Watching other humans perform amazing feats whether it be an opera singer (remember Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman?), an incredibly skilled musician play classical guitar or athletic performance, for example a Circque du Soleil aerial gymnast act.
- Watching awe-inspiring videos of nature for example the night skies, Yosemite park
- Get with nature: Waking up early to catch the sunrise, going out on a clear night and looking out into the stars, walking in nature and stopping to listen, smell and see. We get a moment of awe noticing daffodils emerging from the ground – every year, in Spring. How do they know? What amazing mechanism bring this about!
- Volunteering : Working alongside selfless people and appreciating how good humans can be. Similar but different, I can’t help getting a feeling of awe and humility when I watch Jarusalema compilations. Wouldn’t it be nice if humanity could sing and dance together all the time.
- Also, meditating is supposed to help us be more open to feeling awe
I have tried to inject more awe into my life and it does seem to work. I am feeling less harried and with a more generous disposition towards humanity, and it feels good. Give it a go, and let us know how you feel. firstname.lastname@example.org
Popular books on the topic:
Awestruck serves as a guide to help you tap into the powerful, life-changing benefits of awe. Beginning with a comprehensive explanation of the emotion, Jonah Paquette introduces us to the power of awe and how it can help alleviate struggles in our modern life, including stress, social isolation, and time pressure. Continuing with over 60 practices, this book provides an accessible and tangible path to bring more wonder into your everyday life.
Author: Katie McGregor, Love Life over 40