“Feeling Awe may be the secret to health and happiness.”
— Paula Spencer Scott
What is Awe?
“Awe is the feeling of being in the presence of something vast or beyond human scale, that transcends our current understanding of things” (Keltner 2016).
Awe can be an electrifying emotion experienced at the sight of the Grand Canyon (pictured above), Niagara Falls, Cirque du Soleil, The Sistine Chapel, or a 4th of July fireworks display. However, research recently discovered that Awe can be much more accessible, such as the generosity of a friend or the sight of a cool pattern of shadows and leaves.
In the past, the prominent six emotions were happiness, sadness, fear, anger, disgust, and surprise. The scientific world viewed Awe as the “Gucci” of emotions, a luxury item. Today, Awe is “thought to be a basic part of being human that we all need” (Shiota 2016).
What is the purpose of Awe?
- Awe binds us together: To force us to act as a team, ensuring survival and shifting our thoughts from me to we.
- Awe helps us see things in new ways: To enable us to be still and attentive, the “stop-and-think” phenomenon, making us more receptive to details and new information.
- Awe makes us nicer and happier: To make us act more generously, ethically, and fairly.
- Awe alters our bodies: As a positive emotion, Awe reduces the level of cytokines, which causes inflammation tied to depression.
How can I find Awe in everyday life?
- Drop the devices and gaze at the clouds or stars.
- Visit a local, state or national park.
- Take an Awe Walk in your neighborhood, noticing things as if for the first time.
- Describe to a friend, family member, or co-worker and/or write about a time you once felt Awe.
- Visit a museum or planetarium.
- Get up early to watch the sunrise.
- Play amazing music often. Examples include: Beethoven’s Fifth, Alison Krauss’ “Down to the River to Pray,” and Carlos Santana’s live “Europa.”
How will you find, experience, and feel Awe this week and beyond?