We throw words around these days, and with the facility of the internet and social media they can be tossed about with abandon, like tuna at the Port Lincoln Tunarama festival. Unfortunately, just as you can’t toss a tuna without fundamentally altering it in some way, words become changed with overuse. Take the word “awesome” as an example; when I agreed to having a biscotti with my coffee recently the waiter responded by describing the decision as “awesome”. I don’t think my weak moment of allowing myself some sugar should really have been placed on the same scale as an ocean sunrise, yet there it was; a twice-baked almond biscuit and the majesty of the Universe both saddled with the same adjective. Awesome!
The paradox of awe these days is that while we apply the word “awesome” to many things that aren’t, we also carry an attitude that diminishes genuinely awe-inspiring experiences. A world-weary sense of superiority is fashionable these days and unless it’s a cat juggling liquorice-lugers on YouTube we tend to view most things that happen with the attitude “Yeah, I’ve seen that before”. Possibly it is simply because we see so much on social or streamed media, that our senses have become dulled. The sad result is that although we describe things as awesome, we don’t actually experience a lot of awe. That’s a real shame because feeling awe is genuinely good for you.
The paradox of awe these days is that while we apply the word “awesome” to many things that aren’t, we also carry an attitude that diminishes genuinely awe-inspiring experiences.
In a study published last year in the journal Emotion, healthy older adults were asked to take at least one 15-minute walk a week for eight weeks. For half of the subjects, the researchers described the emotion of “awe” and suggested trying to experience that emotion whilst on the walk. Subjects also completed surveys to track their emotions on a daily basis. People in the awe group experienced significant boosts in their daily experience of positive emotions such as compassion and gratitude over the eight weeks of the study. The control group did not experience significant shifts in their wellbeing.
The belief is that the healing power of experiencing awe is that it promotes a smaller sense of self and a healthy sense of proportion between your own self and the bigger picture of the world around you. The truly wonderful thing is that you don’t have to go anywhere to experience awe. Awe is an attitude, a way of seeing things. Just look out your window and you will see something awe inspiring if you let yourself.
Awe is an attitude, a way of seeing things. Just look out your window and you will see something awe inspiring if you let yourself.
Of course, the world these days encourages you to project a bigger sense of yourself. In the process of that projection, it is easy to believe the projection is reality. Step outside that paradigm if you can. Let yourself be small, feel the awe, and your life will be better for it.