When was the last time you found yourself in awe? Many of us who have had little to no interaction with the world for the past two years might have forgotten about the importance of this emotion.
Awe is a sensation that we experience when faced with something so vast that it transcends normality, which we struggle to understand fully. This transformation is called the sense of small self, our ability to feel connected to the greater whole or part of something larger than oneself.
The concept of small self is what researchers have found leads to pro-social and enhanced ethical behaviour. One study in 2018 found that experiencing awe led to decreased social dominance and self-interest motivated behaviours. The second half of this study showed that experiencing awe directly impacted people’s pro-environmental actions and a diminished sense of entitlement and superiority.
If awe makes us feel small, why does it lead to pro-social and pro-environmental behaviours?
- Awe gives us room to be present in a situation; it allows us to engage in the world around us and is the single most motivating emotion we have.
- Awe brings people together by making us more curious about the world and those around us. Research has linked awe to increasing our desire to learn more and take on new perspectives without our old viewpoints’ inflexibility.
- Awe increases generosity and lowers aggression because we can become integrated with our community.
- Awe is linked to the broadening and build model of positive emotions. Studies suggest that the more curious one is, the more creative one may become. The emotion awe invokes a sense of wonder, but it also increases our fluency and flexibility required for creativity. The more awe one experiences, the more creative one can become.
- Awe makes us healthy; in fact, awe’s emotion is directly responsible for our body’s cytokine response. Broadly, wonder keeps our immune system working and helps keep us well.
- Well-being is more than just physical health; awe is well-known for its ability to slow down time and reduce materialistic and selfish behaviours.
- Additionally, awe boosts mood and increases one’s satisfaction with life.
Increasing awe in your daily life does not require you to travel or interrupt your daily routine. Here are a few ways to add a little awe to your day!
Spend time in nature
It could be as simple as noticing trees or how leaves dance as the wind carries them. Studies support that looking at nature increases the feeling of awe by 30%.
Listen to music
Music can help us experience our emotions, so use this to your advantage! You don’t have to listen to a great piece of composure, it can be anything that moves you. Check out some song ideas here.
Engage in something collective
Although group activities may be put on hold, there are ways to do this with safety! Local markets and outdoor activities, or online groups, are easy ways to engage in a collective goal safely.
Meditate and become more mindful of awe
Meditation does not have to be strict to a specific practice; being aware of how we engage with life can be a form of mediation itself!
Visit historic sites
Museums, architectural landscapes, and protected parks and buildings are all historical sites that can elicit feelings of awe.
Connect with awe-inspiring stories
Watching a movie or reading a book on actual life events that are inspiring provoke awe.
Consider the vastness of the world around you
Take a moment to look out the window and notice the sky or go for a walk when the stars are out, then pay attention to the vastness of what goes on around you.
Value the ordinary
One of the easiest ways to find awe is to see value in the regular events we live in today. An example is valuing your partner who brings you a coffee in the morning without being asked.
Blog post by Alissa Caskey, Data Analyst.
Anderson, C. L., Dixson, D. D., Monroy, M., & Keltner, D. (2020). Are awe-prone people more curious? the relationship between dispositional awe, curiosity, and academic outcomes. Journal of Personality, 88(4), 762–779. https://doi.org/10.1111/jopy.12524
Chirico, A., Glaveanu, V. P., Cipresso, P., Riva, G., & Gaggioli, A. (2018). Awe enhances creative thinking: an experimental study. Creativity Research Journal, 30(2), 123–131.
Chiricoa, A., & Gaggioli, A. (2018). The continuum of self-transcendence: Flow experience and the emotion of awe. Annual Review of CyberTherapy and Telemedicine, 16, 67–72.
Dolan, E. W. (2021, February 27). Nature’s power to induce awe might also reduce political polarization, study suggests. PsyPost. https://www.psypost.org/2021/02/natures-power- to-induce-awe-might-also-reduce-political-polarization-study-suggests-59829
Guan, F., Chen, J., Chen, O., Liu, L., & Zha, Y. (2019). Awe and prosocial tendency. Current Psychology: A Journal for Diverse Perspectives on Diverse Psychological Issues, 38(4), 1033–1041. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-019-00244-7
Passmore, H.-A. (2021, March 01). Awe [Lecture & PowerPoint slides]. GoogleDrive. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1I5I_NBllnTGcegKwl1hAbMk4FI33TXIV/view
Penman, D. (2018, September 07). Is Awe Our Most Underrated and Powerful Emotion? Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/mindfulness-in-frantic-world/201809/is-awe-our-most-underrated-and-powerful-emotion
Thompson, P. (2015, June 03). 20 Ways to Bring a Sense of Awe to Your Daily Life. Mind Body Green. https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-20099/20-ways-to-bring-a-sense-of-awe-to- your-daily-life.html
Yaden, D. B., Kaufman, S. B., Hyde, E., Chirico, A., Gaggioli, A., Zhang, J. W., & Keltner, D. (2019). The development of the awe experience scale (awe-s): a multifactorial measure for a complex emotion. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 14(4), 474–488. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2018.1484940