Allison McKee – Columnist
We just got back from our 30th wedding anniversary celebration trip. We spent five days south and three days hiking in Nevada, California, and Arizona. We visited three very different and incredibly gorgeous places, and I continue to think about how unique these places were.
On our last day of hiking, we met a woman on the trail who was wearing a Morraine Lake t-shirt. She was from Chicago, had visited Banff multiple times, and gushed over the beauty we live so close to in this province. As we discussed the fascinating landscape, we were witnessing at Valley of Fire State Park in Southern Nevada, she told us that she had just listened to a program about finding a sense of awe in one’s day-to-day life.
A quick Google search will result in thousands of hits about the importance of finding awe in one’s life. In 2016, Craig Anderson, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California, Berkeley, was working on Project Awe. This program gathered stories of awe-inspiring experiences and studied the effects on those who experienced them.
Anderson defines awe as encountering something so vast that you don’t feel like you completely wrap your mind around it at that moment. He says that awe could involve experiences of profound beauty or feeling super-connected to other people, nature, or humanity.
So that’s maybe how awe feels or what awe is. But what can finding wonder, the sense of awe, in your daily life do for your health? According to mindful.org, the following are some benefits of finding awe.
● Awe can boost your mood and make you more satisfied with your life.
● One study found that people who had a more significant potential to experience awe had lower levels of an IL-6 which is a marker of inflammation in the body.
● Awe has the potential to facilitate more significant scientific learning and reasoning.
● Awe decreases materialistic tendencies.
● Awe can increase humility.
● Awe may expand one’s perception of time.
● Awe can make you more generous and creative.
● Awe can make you feel more connected to others.
As we hiked through red rock, white rock, and waves of rock, sat in natural hot springs, and ate lunch on the bank of the Colorado River, the constant utterance of “Oh my goodness, I cannot believe what I’m seeing” was the awe that Craig Anderson was describing.
You don’t have to take a trip to experience awe. AWE is available to you at any time. You can read about others’ experiences of awe or notice the sunrise in the morning or the setting at night. You can look up into the night sky and see the stars. You can put your hand on your belly and feel your breath, marvel at how a baby notices the things around him, or be in awe of the first blooms of spring.
Set the intention to search out awe each day this week and see if the benefits above don’t flood into your life going forward.
Happy New Year!