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Do you remember, as a child, seeing your first firefly or full moon? And do you recall the sense of wondrous amazement you felt playing in falling snow or feeling an ocean wave lap at your feet?
Wonder, or awe, is defined as a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by experiencing something beautiful, unexpected or unfamiliar. I also love another definition that I saw that describes wonder as an emotion “somewhere between the upper reaches of pleasure and the boundary of fear”.
As adults we experience wonder over the birth of children and grandchildren, beauty in nature and unexpected sights such as a double rainbow arched over the sea. Researchers are discovering that the more we experience that sense of awe and wonder, the happier we feel. And, we are healthier.
I’m here to help you cultivate a sense of wonder for better health.
Cultivate a Sense of Wonder for Better Health
It turns out wonderment has a range of emotional and physical benefits. Experiencing awe and wonder frequently makes us feel happier and contributes to a greater sense of life satisfaction. Those feelings also foster compassion for others and increase our humility as we realize the grandeur of the universe.
Wonder makes us think more expansively, expands our perception of time and may lead to less materialism. It can even help those who cope with post traumatic stress syndrome.
For these benefits and the health boosts listed below, we want wonder to be a daily occurrence. Here are ways to increase those moments of awe and wonder.
Experience New Things
One of my favorite ways to up the wonderment is by trying new experiences. When we experience something new, the “wonder” circuits in the brain are activated. We gain pleasure and a sense of satisfaction. There are BIG new experiences such as climbing a mountain and standing at its peak. However, we can create mini wonder moments by experiencing smaller new experiences.
Try drawing or painting with your non-dominant hand. Or roll out a sleeping bag and star gaze in the middle of the night. Take a walking tour in a new to you city. Or eat a food you’ve never tried before.
Whatever you try, push yourself a bit…or a lot…beyond your comfort zone. My grandson and I traveled to St Louis to attend our first huge Comic Con. It pushed us both to put ourselves out there. And it culminated with meeting and talking to two of the actors, the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors, from one of our favorite television shows, Doctor Who.
Wonder is a playful quality. So it makes sense that to experience wonder more frequently, play more. Children excel at inventing games and playing spontaneously. We can learn from their example.
Play in the garden sprinkler. Make a blanket fort and color in it. Roast marshmallows over a fire. Count fireflies or stars as they appear. Collect sea shells or rocks. Start a game of tag with strangers on the beach.
Whatever brings out your playful nature and that sense of wonderment, do more of that.
Slow Down and Be Present
When we say that we love experiencing the world through a child’s eyes, what we really mean is that we love their sense of wonder. Children are great observers of the world around them. They pause to study a ladybug crawling up a leaf or marvel at a dandelion in the grass.
As adults we need to slow down, pause, and be present in the moment. We can then observe the world around us too and all of its wonders. Sometimes that means we need to quiet our minds and stop thinking about our to-do list or the work waiting for us.
Savor the moments. Look for the wonders. When we look, we find them.
How we view the world, and the wonders in it, depends greatly upon mindset.
Those who tend toward negative thoughts will see the world as a fearful place and may miss the wonders in it. Additionally, negative thoughts lead to negative experiences in life. Simply put, it’s all about the energy we dwell in. Expect that life or the world is bad and the brain does its best to prove it by pointing out all that’s wrong.
To experience more awe in life, do a mental check to see what kind of thoughts run through your mind during the day. If most are negative learn to shift those toward the positive. Meditation, yoga, walking in nature, counseling, journaling and self help books are powerful ways to shift mindset.
The more positively we view the world the more open we are to experiencing the abundant wonders there.
Spend Time with Children and Grandchildren
Children are expert wonder finders. Spend time following your toddler around the yard, and experience the wonders of insects, leaves and rocks. Talk to your child about what inspires wonder in them. Create shared experiences such as watching meteors streak across the sky or catching a full lunar eclipse or watching a wonder inspiring documentary on dolphins.
And is anything more wonderous than holding a newborn baby or grandbaby? Be there for those moments.
One of the best places to experience awe and wonder is outdoors, in nature.
How amazing to watch a powerful thunderstorm roll in. What wonder to see the woods awaken in the spring. And there’s magic in the hummingbird as it flits from flower to flower.
Whether you live near the desert, a mountain or the ocean, or have a park nearby in your city, get outside and stay present to see what wonders appear. Enjoy a gorgeous sunrise or end the day with a breathtaking sunset.
I cultivate wonder by planting flowers and herbs in my backyard. That beautiful space is a constant source of magic and wonder for me. You can create wonder with fairy gardens or patio container gardens. Hang art outside or decorate a porch with strings of lights and baskets of plants. Create your own outdoor space and invite wonder in.
Appreciate Art and Music
Art and music inspire wonder as well by filling us with deep appreciation.
Attend art exhibits or travel to see those iconic pieces of art you’ve always read about. When I visited Florence, Italy, and saw Michelangelo’s David statue for the first time, I was overcome with such strong, wonderous emotions.
Attend concerts. Discover new music. Put that favorite song on repeat and let it move you. Two of my grandsons participated in school bands. Attending those concerts and hearing those performances always induced awe as I watched those students come together to create beautiful music.
Ways Wonder Improves Health
Now we know how to experience wonder more frequently. Here are the ways that such experiences improve health.
- reduces inflammation – this one is the biggie. Chronic inflammation in the body leads to many diseases including cardiovascular disease, arthritis, diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer’s. Frequently experiencing awe and wonder, which is a high level vibrational emotion, reduces inflammation in the body, which helps to prevent those diseases.
- lowers stress – higher levels of stress means higher levels of inflammation
- boosts immunity to help fight off invading illnesses including viruses and allergens
- lowers blood pressure which helps protect the cardiovascular system
- improves sleep – primarily because we feel happier and less stressful
- shifts attitude opening us up to receive more wonder in our lives
- lowers risk for depression
- enhances overall sense of wellbeing
- reduces risk for type 2 diabetes
- inspires creativity which improves sense wellbeing
Be the “Oh Wow” Person
In my family, I’m the “Oh Wow” person. My kids laugh at me, in a good natured way, because one of my most frequent expressions is “Oh wow!” I say it often because I do see the wonder in so many things.
I not only look for the wonder, I’m open to receiving it so that when something unexpected happens, I see it. And I continually seek out new experiences. Many of those inspire awe and wonder in me as well.
I’ve also discovered that fulfilling dreams creates a sense of wonder. Standing on a bridge over the Grand Canal in Venice, Italy inspired awe. And the first time I visited Thirlestane Castle, in Lauder, Scotland, I had to sit on a bench for a while outside and just look at it. I’d heard about our ancestral castle my whole life. Seeing it, experiencing it through an inside tour, created a range of emotions, including profound wonder.
I hope this post gives you ideas about how you can create more wonderment in your life. And that it motivates you to want to, for the betterment of your health and wellbeing.
Where can you find wonder today?
Items to Help Inspire Wonder
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