When was the last time you went “Whoa!”? If it was a trip to the Grand Canyon three years ago, it may be time to wake up your sense of wonder.
A growing body of research is showing that awe or the state of wonder is a feeling of astonishment. The feeling of astonishment happens when we are in the presence of something vast and hard to comprehend. This state of wonder-bolsters our health, emotional well-being and connection to the world.
Experiencing a state of AWE on a regular basis leads to greater humility. According to new research out of the University of California, Berkeley’s Social Interaction Lab, “Many people are concerned about the rise of narcissism, arrogance and greed.” Lead researcher Dacher Keltner, a Professor of Psychology at U.C. Berkeley and the faculty director of a Greater God Science center says, “One antidote to greed and arrogance is humility. Humility is a sense of strength in others and the realization that you are part of something larger.”
Where does AWE come from? “In studies across 28 cultures, we’ve found the two main sources of awe are observing other people and nature,” says Keltner. We are awed not only by genius but also by kindness. A woman giving forth birth may trigger these emotions; so can children playing. Religious rituals and great music, art and architecture may also give you goose bumps. (Did you know that experiencing goosebumps is a physiological result of awe?)
On the average a state of awe or wonder happens about 2.5 times a week. This can come from many different sources such as patterns of light, the sound of rain, clouds, the generosity of others, cool art or graffiti, and serving someone who really needs it. Having someone show kindness to you can also generate a feeling of wonder and awe.
Being in the presence of something transcendent makes us feel less important in a good way. When we are in Yosemite, we see ourselves as small but we also see our self as something belonging to something bigger.
In fact, the state of awe or wonder may actually make us nicer; In one U.C. Berkeley study, researchers had one group of people gaze up at eucalyptus trees for one minute and another group look at a nondescript building. Then the researchers stumbled and dropped a bunch of pens on purpose. The people with the amazing view picked up more pens. This was proven over and over again. “After walking in the woods you come out feeling at peace with other people.” Keltner says, and that makes you more likely to notice and assist others in need.
Feeling astonished may even change your body on a cellular level. Inflammation is a major prediction of disease Keltner says and it is directly linked to depression, autoimmune diseases and diabetes. Many people are starved for awe because they don’t get outside, Keltner points out. How you can boost your state of awe and wonder in 2018 and make it a wonder-full filled year? Take a few minutes every day to get your daily dose of goose bumps. Stop and listen to your children and what is happening to them in their lives. Children live in a natural state of awe. Look at the world through their perspective. Listen to beautiful music, serve someone, watch birds as they land on your bird feeder, or better yet, get out there in nature!
I am on track for a more Wonder-filled 2018 by personally increasing my state of awe! You can too!
Happy New Year!