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The Healing Power of Awe

sunThe mountains. The stars freckled across the sky. A fiery sunrise. A rich cup of coffee alongside a piece of flaky pie: These things are awesome.

Though I’ve seen a million sunsets and stared at the oceans for hours, I’m still moved by their wonder and mystery, touched by their beauty, and profoundly grateful that I can experience them again and again.

Nature is awe-inspiring. There is awesomeness in our everyday lives, too, yet we seldom notice. Take a gander at your miraculous body, for one. Look at yourself in the mirror, stare into your own eyes and contemplate what it takes for them to work at all.

I still find it awesome, too, that water pours out of the faucet with the turn of a knob, and that television programs and emails are beamed through time and space right into my home. Just for me. Whenever I want. These things are awesome, too.

And it’s a good thing to notice. When we experience awe, we are filled with positive emotion. We feel happier, and more fulfilled. We are also healthier and experience greater vitality.

A new study published in the journal Emotion shows that positive emotions such as awe actually lower our inflammation and reduce the risk for heart disease, arthritis, depression, and even Alzheimer’s disease.

With awe we also tend to feel an interconnectedness and a sense of meaning in our lives, according to Dacher Keltner, one of the researchers at the University of California, Berkeley.

Awe isn’t an isolated experience. We can feel it many times each week and attract it into our lives. Here’s how to do it.

Reminisce.

Remember an awesome experience. Perhaps it was a pristine place, or a time you connected deeply with others during a special moment. Recall the details. Where were you? What touched you about it? What did it sound like? Feel like? When we can draw on our memories of awesomeness, we experience those feelings again.

Seek out beauty.

Beautiful music, amazing art, or stunning natural views can invoke feelings of awe, so seek them out. Surround yourself with things that inspire you and make you feel good. Take time to notice and savor them. Awe will be one of many positive emotions that you experience.

Become present to the awesomeness in others.

Look out for awesome performances. Surround yourself with people doing amazing things. Tune in to the peak moments of life such as watching a baby being born, or someone you love triumphing after challenge. Savor the amazing and you will be elevated by awe.

References

Stellar, J.E., John-Henderson, N., Anderson, C.L., Gordon, A.M., McNeil, G.D. & Keltner, D. (2015, Jan. 19). Positive Affect and Markers of Inflammation: Discrete Positive Emotions Predict Lower Levels of Inflammatory Cytokines. Emotion, e-publication ahead of print. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/emo0000033

Fredrickson, B.L., Cohn, M.A., Coffey, K.A., Pek, J., & Finkel, S.M. (2008). Open Hearts Build Lives: Positive Emotions, Induced Through Loving-Kindness Meditation, Build Consequential Personal Resources. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95(5), 1045–1062. doi:10.1037/a0013262

The Healing Power of Awe

Polly Campbell

Polly Campbell is a sought-after motivational speaker and the author of three books, How to Live an Awesome Life: How to live well, do good, be happy; >em>Imperfect Spirituality: Extraordinary Enlightenment for Ordinary People and How to Reach Enlightenment. She blogs at http://www.imperfectspirituality.com and writes regularly on personal development and wellness topics for national publications.


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APA Reference
Campbell, P. (2015). The Healing Power of Awe. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 18, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/the-healing-power-of-awe/

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 13 Mar 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 13 Mar 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.