The Power of Awe

Have you felt awe lately? 

Maybe it’s been through the music that lifts you, the frissons of deep meditation, or the vastness that hit you when you scaled that mountain top.

Well, don’t stop. Science is telling us now to keep finding it for its plethora of benefits.

Did you know there is 15 years of research on awe, which suggests that experiencing awe may lead to benefits of happiness, health, generosity, humility and critical thinking according to Greater Good Magazine, University of California Berkeley.

In our present times of increasing disconnection and mental health issues, imagine the healing effects of bringing back or building awe into people’s lives; children that are struggling.

I came across the concept of awe loud and clear while listening to clinical professor of psychiatry, Dr Dan Siegel, on the latest Mental Health Global Summit. He suggested that exposing ourselves to emotions such as gratitude, compassion and awe, reduced anxiety and depression. 

Gratitude and compassion are well known adjuncts to wellbeing, but awe sounds exhilaratingly new. I was immediately delighted, because I am about to set off on pilgrimage again, where a whopping dose of AWE clearly defines the experience. It’s also a big tick for my expansive joy dates – giving myself permission to engage in things I love doing.

Studies show, the more awe experiment participants experienced, the more improvement they saw in their well-being and symptoms of stress one week later. 

The studies found overall that experiencing awe could:

  • Improve mood
  • Make us more satisfied with life
  • Improve health
  • Facilitate learning
  • Decrease materialism
  • Make us feel smaller and humble
  • Expand our perception of time
  • Make us more generous and co-operative
  • Make us feel more connected to others

Researcher and author of the book, Awe, Dacher Keltner, said the definition arrived at was that awe was really about :

“Vast things that transcend your understanding of the world which you need to accommodate to your understanding of reality.”

He studied prisoners who found awe in the light on the bay and their grandchild’s hand. Veterans made him realise that there’s even awe in trauma. He discovered microscopic awe in the studying of bee’s eyes, honeycomb and human tears.

“It (awe) changes your sense of who you are. You start to realise, I’m not a separate person, I’m connected to all these people. If you’re looking for change, it’s a good emotion to seek.”

Keltner also spotlights meditation and the use of psychedelics.

“Those are all about the default mode network, the self quieting down. But when people feel awe, there are a lot of interesting psychological phenomenological qualities, the experience of oneness with everything—seeing life-animating forces in everything, feeling like boundaries are dissolving, feeling the divine. Awe provides a window into those amazing things that we really don’t know a lot about with respect to neuroscience…I think there are going to be a lot of awe interventions. So how much does awe help with disease or heart problems or depression? I think there are big frontiers coming for our world.”

This leaves me with no doubt that finding the awe in life is a no-brainer. So while you are going about life, make sure you say yes to everything that inspires a feeling that life is magic in motion, and what?…You happen to be living it. 

Listen to the music.

Dance your dance.

Read your brand of book.

Watch a movie that moves you.

Enjoy a fine meal.

Lose yourself in nature.

Take the adventure.

Get lost in sweet love.

Allow yourself to be awestruck by the magnitude of it all.

Live, live, live.

  • Footnote: if this all sounds uncomfortable or brings up resistance, I invite you to book a free 30-minute discovery call with me to discuss how I can help you move forward using cutting-edge neuroscience techniques.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s