Awe Makes You a Better Person

 “He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed” – Albert Einstein

What are your moments of awe? Mine tend to be inspired by people and nature. With people, it’s all about their courage, kindness and strength, setting exemplary standards. With nature, it’s the sheer wonderment on every scale, from watching worms emerge during a morning springtime walk, to gazing on the enormity of the starry skies on a clear night.

“Two things awe me most, the starry sky above me and the moral law within me” – Immanuel Kant

In a study by scientists Yang Bai and Maria Monroy, subjects answered the question, “What was a memorable moment of awe in your life?” – awe being defined as a feeling of “being in the presence of something vast and mysterious that transcends your current understanding of the world”.   They asked this in 26 countries and yes, nature, music and spiritual practices were high on the list, but other people came top.  Stories that were told varied from lifesaving acts to bystanders defusing fights and standing up for justice.  Parents talking of their children were also common, their development often being recalled as a source of awe.

Scientific inquiry into the causes and effects of awe is beginning to reveal that it produces measurable benefits to our health and wellbeing.   Researchers found correlations between feelings of awe and a positive effect on immune systems in the form of a measurable lowering of levels of inflammation processes in the body.  As for wellbeing, subjects reported higher levels following the experience of awe. Other findings included improved learning ability, calmer thinking and the development of empathy that drives social behaviour in respect of community interaction and support. It is as if awe transforms and awakens our minds and bodies.

Clearly, awe is an important emotion so, let’s invite it into our lives by recognising and acknowledging its presence whenever we can. Make some time to use your senses to the full, seeking out all that is remarkable and fills us with wonderment. And don’t forget to pass it on to those around you who may be oblivious.

“We teach children how to measure and how to weigh – we fail to teach them how to revere, how to sense wonder and awe” Harold S Kushner.