Awe is an amazing feeling. It’s hard to put into words, but you certainly know it when it strikes. Awe is the emotion or sensation you feel when you suddenly sense that you are a part of something much, much larger than yourself. A sense of being connected to the world around you; a sense of wonder. For some, this has religious connotations, but non-religious people feel awe too – and it’s good for you.
Studies show that people who regularly experience awe exhibit greater life satisfaction than others. Transcendent experiences, such as those which invoke awe, have also been shown to have mental health benefits throughout a lifetime.
Awe is good for your physical health too – in fact, the positive emotion of awe has been linked to lower levels of inflammatory cytokines in the body; high levels of inflammation can lead to heart disease, autoimmune disorders and cognitive degeneration.
You may be thinking – yeah, great. But I don’t live next door to the Grand Canyon, and I can’t afford to travel the world, so where am I supposed to get my daily dose of awe from?
While it’s true that natural wonders and beautiful, wild places are great for inspiring awe, the good news is that you can invoke awe in yourself wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, in your daily life – often without even leaving your home or your backyard. No expensive travel required, even if you live in what you might consider an uninspiring urban environment.
Here are some tips and tricks for finding plenty of awe in your everyday routines.
1 – Look Upwards
No matter where you are, you can see the sky. Cloud watching is a great way to feel a sense of awe. Simply lie back and watch the sky do its thing, knowing that everyone around you – for hundreds of miles in each direction, in the case of large cloud formations – can see the same sky that you can see. Few things make you feel at once as small and yet as connected as towering clouds above you.
At night, of course, there’s the night sky to look at. Everyone can see the same moon. Everyone in your hemisphere can see the same constellations. Even if you’re surrounded by light pollution, you should still be able to see something, and pondering the night sky is a fantastic way to feel at one with your fellow earth-dwellers.
2 – Look Closely at Nature
If you’re lucky enough to have easy access to beautiful natural spaces, this is easy – simply learn to appreciate the awe and wonder of what you already have. If your access to nature’s most spectacular sights is limited, however, you’ll need to look more closely at the nature right under your feet. Even in a concrete jungle, there is life. Look for insects and small creatures carving out lives right among us. Look for the plants coming through cracks in the sidewalk. Look at the fascinating patterns on the bark of trees; look at the birds finding food and feeding their young, facing the same problems that we do in order to keep safe, look after their families and keep themselves fed and warm. Feel the connection between your life and the lives of the non-humans around you.
Paying attention to the weather is another great awe-inspiring activity. If it’s raining, for example, sit with it and try to understand how the rain connects you and others in your area.
3 – Visit Somewhere New
Again, if you can visit somewhere beautiful – job done. If you can’t, you can at least visit a new place locally. It doesn’t have to be outdoors – indoor, man-made spaces can be awe-inspiring too. Try a museum you’ve never visited before, to tap into the sense of awe that the expanse of human history brings. Visit a nightclub you’ve never been to and tap into the sheer collective joy of the music and the rhythms. Visit a new neighborhood and look out for signs of community spirit, seeking the connection between your life and the lives of people you’ve never met.
4 – See Through the Eyes of a Child
If you have young children, take time to hear or see what exactly it is that opens their eyes in wonder. Children find awe in things we adults take totally for granted. The rainbows in a raindrop, the way the shading on a pebble looks like a face, the way ants or bees work together as one organism. Children’s endless ‘why?’ questions take on a whole new meaning if you learn to appreciate and see the wonder which has sparked the question in the first place.
5 – Visualize Awe
Close your eyes, settle down and take yourself on a magical, awe-inspiring journey in your mind. Mentally visit somewhere you’ve always wanted to go, and experience the anticipation, the excitement and what each of your senses has to tell you. Hear the waterfall or smell the wildflowers or catch your imaginary breath at the view from the top of that mountain.
6 – Remember Awe
When was the last time you felt a sense of awe? What were you doing, or listening to, or watching? Try to recall the memory in vivid detail. Look at photos, if you have them, or recall how you felt when you understood, for an instance, that sense of connection with the cosmos.
7 – Seek Synchronicity
Synchronicity is a fantastic way of experiencing a sense of awe and wonder, and of oneness with the universe. Learn how to invite synchronicity into your life, and how to work with it when you need it. A daily divination practice is a great way to do this, but you can follow your own instincts on how to find awe through random chances which have meaning for you.
Bonus tip – if you’re short of inspiration or awe on any given day, find it through video clips. In this digital age, something literally awe-some is never too hard to find. What sparks your light? Whales and dolphins? Check out some whale encounters on YouTube. The northern lights? Look for videos. A volcanic eruption? The calving of an iceberg? Earth from space? Beautiful sunsets? Shooting stars? The inner workings of a beehive? Whatever sparks awe for you is never more than a few clicks away. So, it’s easy to enjoy bringing a sense of awe into your daily life. Here’s one for all of us, and here’s to a deepening sense of awe and mystery – every day.