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Finding Awe in your life… ? 

When last did you feel the sense of Awe in your life?

‘’Seek out experiences that give you goosebumps.’’- Dacher Keltner

Such is the advice of Dacher Keltner, one of the foremost theorists and scholars of awe, a long-overlooked emotion1

What Is Awe?

Starting 15 years ago, scientists have been studying the complex and mysterious emotion called Awe.

Awe is the feeling we get in the presence of something vast that challenges our understanding of the world, like looking up at millions of stars in the night sky or marvelling at the birth of a child. When people feel awe, they may use other words to describe the experience, such as wonder, amazement, surprise, or transcendence. – according to Dacher Keltner of the Greater Good Science Center – University of California, Berkeley 2

Awe is a complex emotion and has been said that it can be difficult to define, and means different things to different people. Feelings of awe can be positive or negative—unlike most other emotions—and can arise from a wide range of stimuli. In a landmark 2003 paper, psychologists Dacher Keltner and Jonathan Haidt presented a “conceptual approach to awe.” In this paper, Keltner and Haidt suggested that awe experiences can be characterized by two phenomena: “perceived vastness” and a “need for accommodation.” 3

Here is a quote from the paper: 

‘’If you’ve hiked among giant sequoias, stood in front
of the Taj Mahal, or observed a particularly virtuosic
musical performance, you may have experienced the
mysterious and complex emotion known as “awe.”

What are the benefits of feeling awe?

Awe may improve your mood and make you more satisfied with your life

A study found that people who read a short, awe-evoking story 4 about seeing Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower reported greater life satisfaction in that moment than people who read a story about seeing a plain landscape from up high.

Awe may be good for your health

People with a greater general tendency to experience awe had lower levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6), a marker of inflammation (too much inflammation can lead to a host of chronic diseases)5

Awe may help you think more critically

Some studies suggest that awe may be able to sharpen our brains6. By alerting us to the gaps in our knowledge, sparking more curiosity and better learning.

It relaxes you

Awe reduces sympathetic influence on the heart and keeping us still, being more aware of our senses and calming us down.7

Can Awe Increaseproductivity?

According to a great deal of recent research, these are some of the benefits of experiencing awe. You can learn how leaders are using Awe in their workspaces according to Wharton University of Pennsylvania here 8

Awe makes you more humble

Data from a 2018 study9 found that individuals who reported experiencing awe more often in their daily lives were rated more humble by their friends. And after participants experienced awe as part of the study (by watching awe-inspiring videos), they acknowledged strengths and weaknesses in a more balanced way and they were more likely to recognize the role of outside forces (such as luck, a greater being, or others) in their personal accomplishments (such as getting accepted into a university), compared with individuals who had not watched awe-inspiring videos.

So how can you experience Awe?

Being able to experience Panoramic views, brilliant colours in the skies, remarkable human accomplishments, great works of architecture, art, and music —which all have the power to evoke feelings of awe. Despite their differences, each of these things defies the scope of our day-to-day experience, challenging our comprehension and even our sense of reality.

In contemplating them we may feel small, insignificant, and yet connected with the world around us, in touch with something greater10 than ourselves. Time seems to expand as we are immersed in the present moment, detached from our normal, mundane concerns.

So how to experience awe every day?

  • Linger- When you catch yourself in awe, sit with that feeling for as long as possible
  • slow down – Create space for awe to emerge in the mundane tasks 9 mindful eating, gardening, and other habitual processes )
  • Experience your senses – Tune in deeply to your awareness of color, texture, scent, and sound.
  • Unplug, awe walks- intentionally step away from the screen and give yourself the opportunity to connect with yourself
  • Awe Journaling11– Numerous studies have shown that spending time in nature lowers stress and improves our physical and mental health by decreasing blood pressure, enhancing focus, and strengthening our immune system

Some other ways to experience awe in your life:

  • Go out into nature
  • Look up
  • Have an open mind
  • Celebrate goodness
  • Record your awe experiences
  • Look at pictures of your most amazing trip
  • Go somewhere new
  • Travel
  • Hang out with a child or infant
  • Watch a documentary – space/earth/nature/animals
  • Look around you and look at the most closest people around you
  • Hike
  • Read stories about people doing amazing & inspirational things

Increasing activities in your life which will give you a sense of awe , can really improve your wellbeing and sense of self and humility.

Whether you are planning your next goal , activity , outing or trip remember to include a moment of awe in your experiences, take it all in and make time to experience the powerful feelings of Awe in your life.
I wish you awe in all your do…


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  1. Psychology Today The Emerging Science of Awe and Its Benefit , article link: https://www.psychologytoday.com/za/blog/understanding-awe/201704/the-emerging-science-awe-and-its-benefits
  2. The Greater Good Magazine, Greater Good Science centre, Awe – Articles and more , article link: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/awe
  3. Greater Good Science Centre, The Science of Awe, A white paper prepared for the John Templeton Foundation by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley September 2018 Link: https://ggsc.berkeley.edu/images/uploads/GGSC-JTF_White_Paper-Awe_FINAL.pdf?_ga=2.229227484.1733633131.1616668909-26780422.1616668909
  4. The Greater Good Magazine, Greater Good Science Centre , Can Awe Bost Health Article link: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/awe_boosts_health
  5. The Greater Good Magazine, Greater Good Science Center , How Awe Shapes our Brains , Link: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_awe_sharpens_our_brains
  6. Michelle N. Shiota, Dacher Keltner & Amanda Mossman (2007) The nature of awe: Elicitors, appraisals, and effects on self-concept, Cognition and Emotion, 21:5, 944-963, DOI: 10.1080/02699930600923668 https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02699930600923668#.VJ3jUAAA
  7. The Greater Good Magazine, Greater Good Science Center , How Awe Shapes our Brains , Link: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_awe_sharpens_our_brains
  8. Wharton Work, The power of Awe : Putting its benefits to work. Wharton University of Pennsylvania https://executiveeducation.wharton.upenn.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/1707-The-Power-of-Awe.pdf
  9. Stellar JE, Gordon A, Anderson CL, Piff PK, McNeil GD, Keltner D. Awe and humility. J Pers Soc Psychol. 2018 Feb;114(2):258-269. doi: 10.1037/pspi0000109. Epub 2017 Aug 31. PMID: 28857578. Link: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28857578/
  10. Michelle N. Shiota, Dacher Keltner & Amanda Mossman (2007) The nature of awe: Elicitors, appraisals, and effects on self-concept, Cognition and Emotion, 21:5, 944-963, DOI: 10.1080/02699930600923668https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02699930600923668#.VJ3jUAAA
  11. The Greater Good Magazine, Greater Good Science Center , Six Ways to incorporate awe in our life Link: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/six_ways_to_incorporate_awe_into_your_daily_life