I often catch my breath while seeing an otherworldly landscape or snow covered mountain, hearing moving music, or witnessing a simple act of kindness. I love that feeling, which researcher Dacher Keltner describes as “Awe—the feeling of being in the presence of something vast that transcends your understanding of the world.”
Keltner and his team at Berkeley have studied awe for a long time. What they found is this: Not only is awe a compelling feeling for romantics like me, it makes us happier, healthier, and humbler in the following ways:
- Improve mood and satisfaction
- Help you think more critically
- Decrease materialism
- Increase humility
- Make you feel like you have more time
- Make you more generous and cooperative
- Improve mental and physical health (i.e. less inflammation)
- Restore your faith in humanity (more connected to others)
That’s a nice list of upgrades. So how can each of us welcome more awe in our everyday lives? Keltner offers this:
- Pay attention to the present. Awe is all around us in everyday things that are right in front of us.
- Recognize the goodness of others. Watch for acts of kindness. Read biographies of inspiring people. Remind yourself of what these people did with pictures and quotes from them.
- Take a detour. Go to a new restaurant or order something new. Drive a different route to work. Listen to a new genre of music or travel to an unfamiliar place you normally wouldn’t. Staying curious and seeking out new things is one of the best ways to expose ourselves to more awe.