When was the last time you felt in awe or wonder of something? Was it a trip abroad, the birth of your child or hiking a national forest?
There’s something about these experiences that are so moving and touching, they give us goosebumps, they make us cry and they help us see ourselves as part of a larger picture.
While in the rat race of day-to-day life, it can be difficult to look up and experience this powerful emotion. And in 2020, finding awe may have been especially hard, given the overwhelming uncertainty that seemed to creep along.
“Sometimes, we are so busy in our own thoughts and emotions that we live in the past or in the future and aren’t truly present in the present,” said Yazhini Srivathsal, a psychiatrist at Banner Behavioral Health Hospital. “Meaning, we beat ourselves up over something that happened to us or that we could have done differently, and all the negative thoughts and feelings caused by that. Or we worry about how things could go wrong in the future versus thinking about what’s rights in front of us.”
In our busy lives, seeking awe, also known as awe-spotting, may be low on our priority list. But as it turns out, awe isn’t just in big moments or experiences; it’s not something that just magically strikes you; it’s not even something you have to pay for. While many tend to attribute awe as child-like wonder, we as adults can experience this emotion too—even in difficult times. Awe is all around us if we only learn how to spot it.
The benefits of awe-spotting
The latest research suggests that taking time to awe-spot may even be a path to improving your life, relationships and overall health and wellbeing.
Research indicates people who awe-spot may:
- be more satisfied with life
- less stressed and anxious
- reap more long-term health benefits (emotionally, mentally and physically)
- be more generous or philanthropic
- think more critically
- feel more connected to other people and the world
“Awe-spotting can help us focus outward and not on ourselves, thus pausing negative emotions or thoughts,” Dr. Srivathsal said. “By focusing outwards, we are able to connect with our surroundings, nature, and people. This helps us realize that there is much more outside of us than the negative emotions we might be facing. It can change your perspective and your way of life.”
5 easy ways to put awe-spotting into practice
There is no denying the overwhelming and immense benefits of finding awe, but you may wonder how to put it into practice. Whether a global pandemic or your busy life, it can be easy to fall into everyday routines (head down, grinding the day out)—making it easier to just put “awe” aside for another day or time.
Sadly, you may even feel like somehow you don’t deserve to feel awe, but this simply isn’t true. Everyone deserves to feel this powerful emotion and it’s something everyone can do.
Here are five productive and easy ways to spot more “awe” in your life and make it a part of your everyday:
1. Get outdoors
Research has shown spending time outdoors or even watching something about the great outdoors can spur awe-inducing experiences. Take time out of each day to go on a walk in your neighborhood or greenspace, watch the sun rise or set and even pull up a chair and look up at the stars. If it’s cold outside, take a few minutes to look out your window and watch as the snow slowly falls or notice the simple beauty of your neighborhood in the wintertime.
2. Listen to music
Music can also trigger feelings of awe and has other benefits too. When your favorite song comes on, it can instantly change your mood, and there is a good reason for that. Music activates parts of our brain that regulate our emotions, attention and memory, which is why it can have such an ‘awe-inspiring’ effect on us.
3. Spend time with a child
Every day can be awe-inspiring for a child because they are learning and growing quickly. The things we often take for granted are things they look at with awe and wonder. If you spend time with a little one, you may catch a bit of awe too.
4. Reframe day-to-day tasks
This might seem strange at first, but even daily, mundane activities are moments to feel awe. It can be as simple as focusing on the smell and warmth of a fresh cup of coffee before taking your first sip. The feeling and joy of a warm shower after a long day. “Awe-spotting doesn’t have to be grandiose in nature,” Dr. Srivathsal said. “These little moments are opportunities to pause and be present and mindful in the moment. It reminds us that awe is everywhere.”
5. Do something awesome for someone else
Bake cookies for a neighbor, volunteer at a local shelter or even just write a little note to your child or significant other. Doing good for others is good for the soul and focuses our attention away from ourselves and on others.
“Sometimes we might feel silly to look at the simple things or awe-spot, because we are doing much more ‘important’ things at that time,” Dr. Srivathsal said. “We might even think these moments are ‘useless’ but it’s not true. As in the larger scheme of life, taking these moments to awe-spot adds much more value to our day-to-day lives and connections. It’s these experiences we need now more than ever.”