Why We Need to Aim for an Awe-Filled Life!

Why We Need to Aim for an Awe-Filled Life!

A few weeks ago, the gardener for a large private estate in The Highlands in North Seattle invited me for a tour.  I jumped at the opportunity!

My Mini Vacation

As we entered the gated community of The Highlands, it felt like we had completely left the city behind. The neighborhood is encased in Redwoods!   As we approached the Gardens, my gardener friend said, “and this is where I start whistling”!   It wasn’t long before I could see why! in awe of botanical garden with bridge


The property is located against the waters overlooking a stunning view of the Olympics.  Every building was elegantly designed, and surrounded by statues, water features and gardens.  There was a creek that streamed through the property, a beautiful Japanese tea-house and gardens, a lilac covered walkway, and a smaller gingerbread house made for the kids to play!   It was a magnificent and beautiful place.  I was also struck by how everyone who worked their seemed to be in a great mood!

My week had been pretty stressful, so I was impressed by how much better I felt after that experience.  I felt like I had just taken a vacation, even though this mini vacation only lasted 2 hrs!

How could such a short experience could be so renewing for me?  I knew naturing had a tendency to renew me, but even hiking didn’t have such impressive benefits in such a short amount of time.

Then I heard a lecture on the benefits of being in nature where they discussed the awe effect.   It instantly became clear to me that the reason why I had benefitted so much from my visit to the estate in such a short amount of time.  I was in a constant state of awe!

Sometimes I like to blow rainbows!

We all know that we experience awe when we witness something expansive and majestic.  But can we experience awe otherwise?

What is ‘Awe’ Anyways?

Emma Stone, Ph.D. writes: “Awe is the sensation of being in the presence of something vast that simultaneously transcends one’s understanding of the world: a state of being that straddles the boundary of pleasure and fear. “

I love this definition.  Awe takes us out of our routine, out of our preconceived notion of what life is, and gives us a much more expansive view of what is possible!

But there is so much more!

It turns out there are some surprising immediate and longer term benefits of experiencing awe:

The Benefits of Awe:

  1. Awe can improve your mood and life satisfaction:

A number of studies have showed that experiencing awe can not only reduce stress, but improve your mood and well-being.  In fact in one study where they took military veterans and youth from stressful environments white water rafting, they found that the effects on stress and well being lasted for an entire week!

an awe-inspiring hike!

  1. Awe is associated with lower inflammatory cytokines:

Studies have showed that people with higher levels of awe have lower levels of the pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-6.   High IL-6 indicates inflammation that increases your risk of chronic diseases.  The T-helper cell, TH-3 is  known to suppress autoimmunity.  To stimulate TH-3, you need to increase your natural opioids and get high on life.   Thus experiencing awe regularly will probably help protect you from autoimmune diseases!

  1. Awe might help you think like a scientist.

Awe can generate curiosity and expand your mind, and thus inspire new ideas to explain how the world works.  Because awe inspires a more expansive view, one is not as persuaded by weak arguments.

  1. Awe can make you less materialistic

With a more expansive and transcendent view, we feel more interconnected, and thus less possessive of our material goods.

  1. Awe can make you feel more humble and smaller

  2. Awe can expand your perception of time

  3. Awe can make you more generous and cooperative

Studies showed that people who experienced more awe or had a greater capacity for awe were more generous when given the opportunity during laboratory tests.

  1. Awe can help you feel more connected to others and humanity

    Studies have shown that people feeling awe report feeling more connected to others.

Maximizing the Awe

Last weekend I went on a hike to Twin Falls with a group of functional medicine enthusiasts.   We spent the day hiking and lounging in the woods alongside a creek, that ended in a giant waterfall.   We shared our perspectives, and had animated discussions about different approaches and theories to addressing patient needs.  Our hike ended with a little vegan chocolate birthday pie and made plans for our next get togethers.  It was an incredible bonding experience for all of us!   Was it due to the hours of awesome scenery, environment, food, company and exchange of novel ideas?   I think so!

Now that I know how beneficial awe can be, I’ve pledged to make sure I get regular doses of it.  

What can you do to make sure you experience daily doses of awe?

Do you struggle with feeling awe?  Luckily, there is something we can do about it!   Trapped emotions and subconscious belief systems and other causes are getting in the way.   If you are ready to release your barriers to getting high on life, contact me at 1855 ENERJOY to schedule a complimentary consultation.




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