September 01, 2020

The power of awe

Gazing at a sunset. Seeing a close friend reach a goal she's sought for years. Walking your daughter down the aisle at her wedding. These experiences have something in common: They inspire a sense of awe. Feelings of warmth and positivity flood your mind in a way that doesn't happen when doing laundry.

Experiencing awe carries significant benefits to physical and mental health, according to new research. Doctors still don't fully understand the underlying mechanisms, but studies show positive effects — reduced inflammation, lower stress, and improved heart rate and diastolic blood pressure — in people who report regularly feeling wonder or awe.

Getting out in nature is the most common way for people to feel that sense of awe. But it's not the only way. Relationships with other people can produce feelings of awe. Experiencing art, music or other forms of personal expression can produce it, too.

Mayo Clinic experts say that you should make a point of having awe-inspiring experiences, especially in these times of distractions, worries and distress. Some ways to focus a part of each day on inspiring awe include keeping a portfolio — either virtually or on paper — of awe-inspiring quotes and pictures, practicing meditation or similar mind-centering activities, and bringing a sense of wonder to small, daily things that often get overlooked, such as a bumblebee exploring a flower, a grandchild's delight or an elegantly crafted piece of furniture.