Matthew Fox once said, “Awe is the beginning of wisdom. Awe is the beginning of education”.
This quote by Fox highlights the importance of awe as it makes us think more critically, be humbler and lead to greater satisfaction in life. Before we start discussing the benefits of experiencing awe in our daily lives and how we can feel awe more often, let’s begin by discussing what awe actually is. Awe is a mysterious and complex but powerful emotion that is similar to wonder but less joyful than it. Awe can induce goosebumps, make you drop your jaw, cause tears to flood your eyes, and bring feelings of euphoria.
Recently, awe has become a focus of scientific research as more and more studies are showing that experiencing wonder can profoundly affect both your body and mind. Experiencing awe has a plethora of benefits ranging from alleviating stress to making you more generous, from dampening the feelings of materialism to making you feel like you have all the time in the world.
When we are young, we experience moments of awe often. However, seeking awe becomes low on our priority list as we grow up. The reason behind this could be that we believe wonder to be rare and a sensation that you experience once in a blue moon. ‘We talk about it as if it’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing, but in fact, it’s everywhere,’ says Dacher Keltner, who is a leading research scientist into the psychology of awe. So believing that awe is attainable and exist around every corner of life can help you feel more wonderment and amazement in your life.
Here today, I’m sharing some ways for you to experience more awe-inspiring moments in your everyday life, enriching it as a result.
- Record Your Moments Of Awe
A good and simple way for you to feel more awe in your life would be to record your experiences of awe in a meaningful way. You can keep an awe-journal or use a journal-like app on your phone to remind you of your experiences of wonderment and amazement. Your record of these awe-inspiring moments can consist of detailed written accounts, pictures, and videos of your awe experiences.
Taking out time to capture important moments of your life in photographs or videos can also enhance the emotional effect of such moments. But your journal doesn’t necessarily have to be all pictures. Be creative and go all out. As long as your awe-journal or scrapbook logs all your moments of awe in some meaningful way, you are doing it right.
A study conducted by Melanie Rudd and her team revealed that participants in the study who recorded moments where they experienced life-altering events experienced more awe in life and grew more patient. Doing so also expanded their perception of time, and they became more willing to volunteer their time. Skimming through your compilation of awe-inspiring moments can help you in two different ways. First of all, looking back at all the moments of awe that you have been blessed with can make you more grateful. Secondly, it can remind you how common these moments can be. It can clear your misconception about the idea of awe being rare. You become more optimistic about experiencing such events in your future.
- Spend More Time In Nature
Spending more time in nature is one way to experience awe regularly. Many researchers have found out that the most common and simple way to evoke this feeling is by taking a trip to nature and the wild. The main motive behind being surrounded by nature is to feel the vastness and experience something greater than yourself.
There are several scientific experiments to support the idea that nature stimulates awe. Results from a study conducted at the University of California revealed that subjects who were asked to stare at the eucalyptus tree were more likely to experience awe later in their lives as compared to participants who were instructed to stare at a tall building. The former became more humble and more willing to help others than the latter. So if you want to experience more awe moments in your life, plan a day trip to a beach or just go for a hike.
Going on a weekend camping trip can also help you connect with nature, as can taking a walk in the local woods or forest. The key to experiencing awe is to pay full attention to whatever you are focusing on. Acknowledge and absorb the vastness and relax. The setting of the sun, a sky full of stars, and dancing aurora lights all offer you an opportunity to be awestruck. However, if you have already experienced awe from a particular source, move on and surround yourself with something you have never seen before and be prepared to be amazed.
- Connect Yourself With Stories That Evoke The Feeling of Awe
An excellent way to experience awe regularly is to identify and connect with stories that have the potential to stimulate awe. Recently, psychological scientist Melanie Rudd conducted another study to investigate the effects of awe-inspiring stories. A group of participants was asked to read about an exciting story about how a climber climbed the Eiffel Tower to witness the beauty of Paris, while another group was told to read a boring tale of a climber who climbed a tall building to have a look at some empty plains. Participants who read about the Eiffel tower experienced more humility, satisfaction, happiness and felt they had more time available, according to the questionaries they filled out. Participants also became more involved in altruistic activities.
“One of the interesting things for me was just how much of an impact that this feeling of having more time was to everyday decision-making,” said the psychological scientist.
So, if you want to elicit happiness or awe, read or listen more about awe-inducing stories.
- Use Music To Evoke Awe
Something you can do to experience awe is to engage with music. Listening to or creating awe-inspiring music can produce feelings of awe. Musical awe is a very uncommonly occurring phenomenon. For instance, if a particular song gives you chills or goosebumps, the chances are that you are experiencing awe. This sensation is called frisson and is essentially the same as awe. And both awe and frisson have similar benefits; they make people more open to new experiences, daring, and creative. While listening to music is also an excellent way to experience the feeling of amazement and awe, creating music in a band or choir is much more effective when it comes to evoking awe because it involves synchronised movements. Therefore, if you want to stimulate the feelings of amazement and wonder in you, actively participate in bands and choirs or allow yourself to be absorbed in the overwhelming vastness of the songs.
Nelly Furtado, the Canadian singer and songwriter says, “music is one of the only inanimate things left. It can still be mystical, magical, and awe-inspiring.”
- Meditate And Involve Yourself In More Spiritual Experiences
For people who are associated with faith, some rituals, prayers in congregations, and reading holy scriptures like Quran, Bible, or Gospel can be profound sources of awe. For someone such as myself who does not have a religious faith, can still experience spirituality. For many people meditating or engaging in self-hypnosis can induce the feeling of awe, while for some people reflecting on previous spiritual experiences can produce such feelings of wonder.
In a study conducted by Jesse L. Preston in 2017, subjects actively involved in writing accounts of spiritual experiences were more likely to experience awe and humility than the controlled group of subjects that wrote about funny experiences. The conclusion that can be made here is that experiences that are spiritual in nature are more likely to induce feelings of awe. Mediation can also be a source of wonderment. A particular type of meditation that utilises human imagination is more effective in eliciting awe. Combining meditation with spirituality can increase the likelihood of you experiencing awe. This is because spirituality can have a very strong connection with awe.
- Try To Find Awe In the Mundane
Believe it or not, you can find awe in mundane activities as well. Contrary to popular belief, awe is not a life-changing event and is everywhere. Slow down, pause, and take a moment to seek awe in the regular day-to-day activities. Take doing the dishes, for instance. Giving attention to how water is running down from the tap and how delicate the soap bubbles are can trigger awe. Try to read a book as you soak up the sun or enjoy watering the plants. Put away your gadgets while eating and try living in the moment for a change.
According to Dr Srivathsal, “These little moments are opportunities to pause and be present and mindful at the moment. It reminds us that awe is everywhere.” While our generation is very dependent on electronic devices, be it for work or socialising, unplugging from technology does do you good. Ironically, electronic devices and mobile phones can give way to feelings of isolation and loneliness. Disconnecting from all this for a while can allow you to unwind and give more attention to yourself. Connecting with ourselves and ditching our phones can make us awe-inspired. So slow down, let go of your electronic devices and look around. Appreciate and acknowledge the little things around you, and you will soon discover new ways to be awe-inspired.
- Try To Be More Open-minded
People feel awe when they experience the vastness of something much bigger than them or when they see themselves differently. According to the findings of a recent experimental study, feelings of awe are closely associated with a greater willingness to take risks and being more open to new experiences. In addition to inducing feelings of awe, open-mindedness has many other advantages.
Being open-minded can open you up to new experiences and make you more willing to avail the new opportunities that knock on your door—other benefits of being open-minded include emotional growth and more learning. Embracing new can make you mentally more strong and daring. It can help you become more optimistic and learn more things with your eyes open. You would no longer be restricted by biases and narrow views. You will become more willing to put yourself in other peoples’ shoes and become more empathetic. By embracing open-mindedness and uncertainty and seeking new opportunities, you will no longer be held captive by the fear of the unknown, and you’ll grow more confident.
So never stop pushing your boundaries and crawl out of your comfort zone, and you will definitely find new sources of awe.
If you feel that you are pressed for time and have a lot on your plate that is causing you stress and anxiety, take a moment to feel awe by following these simple yet effective ways to experience awe. According to my own experience, the feeling of awe narrows down to one thing: being mindful of awe. A way to do this would be to reflect at times in your life where awe is required and then intentionally seek experiences of awe. For example, if you feel overwhelmed, impatient, or stressed, try and experience awe as it might aid you by relieving your stress and by making you a more patient person.
Make mindfulness a habit. Acknowledge and seek the possibilities around you that elicit awe. It is also vital that you remind yourself that awe is not some unattainable emotion, and the idea of awe is not reserved for rare. It is an emotion we can attain if we purposely look for it. And don’t ever stop looking for this emotion. After all, Albert Einstein said, “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is a source of all true arts and science.”
Some people are naturally more likely to experience awe than others. If you are one of those people who are not that prone to experiencing awe, try out the tips we have summarised for you and see if they help bring awe in your everyday life.
And if these activities still don’t stimulate the feeling of awe in you, don’t despair. Continue to seek new ways that inspire and excite you.
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