Finding Everyday Awe

Experiencing everyday awe can benefit your physical, mental, and emotional health – and it’s free and accessible. 

There’s a simple action you can take to lower anxiety and stress, calm your nervous system, and increase your feeling of connection with others and the world around you. It’s free, straightforward, and takes only a couple of minutes to feel the benefits. That practice is finding everyday awe.

Dacher Keltner, a professor of psychology, founding director of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, is the author of the new book, Awe: The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How It Can Transform Your Life. Keltner shares the eight wonders of life that are most likely to induce awe across cultures:

  1. Moral beauty
  2. Collective effervescence 
  3. Nature
  4. Music 
  5. Visual art 
  6. Spiritual experiences
  7. Big ideas or epiphanies 
  8. Mortality

We discuss how these eight wonders have shown up in our lives and what you can do to cultivate them in your own.

Listener Takeaways

1. Look up at trees, or even a single tree, for one minute in silence.

Plant your feet and gaze upward, mindfully observing the abundance of leaves and their intricate patterns, the branches waving gently in the breeze, and the strength of the trunk and roots. Then notice if you feel calmer and more connected to the rest of the world.

2. Go for an awe walk.

Keltner recommends taking a short walk to cultivate awe wherever you are. Here are a few of his tips: 

Choose a location.

Pick a place you’ve never been before – like a new neighborhood or a park or a body of water – where you’re more likely to feel awe since everything is unfamiliar. Or travel to a familiar place and pretend you’re seeing it with fresh eyes, as if you’re visiting for the first time. 

Or simply go outside at sunrise or sunset to experience awe. Give yourself at least 20 minutes of uninterrupted time, preferably with your phone and other tech turned off. Take deep breaths for several minutes, then start walking. 

Pause and notice. 

Get in touch with your senses, and pay attention to the sights, sounds, scents and other sensations around you. Feel the wind in your face, touch the bark of a tree or notice the changing light and color of the sky. 

Zoom in on one detail at a time, like a bird hopping on the ground in front of you, the sound of the wind rustling through the trees. Then slowly expand your perspective. Keltner calls this “part-to-whole” focusing. You can also focus your gaze on the ground or a window or doorway and slowly pan upward, taking in buildings, rooftops or the sky.

3. Be mindful of everyday moments of awe and pause to savor them.

Be open to the opportunities for awe all around you. You can fully tune in to a song that catches your attention or being present for moments of connection with a stranger or larger community,  

Get In Touch

How have you experienced awe in your everyday life? Tell us at podcast@semitogether.com or send us a voice memo.

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Awe: The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How It Can Transform Your Life, by Dacher Keltner

Atlas of the Heart, by Brené Brown 

New York Times: This Kind of Walk Is Much More Than a Workout

New York Times: How a Bit of Awe Can Improve Your Health

Harvard Business Review: The Power of Everyday Awe

Greater Good Science Institute: What Is Awe? Why Practice It? How Do I Cultivate It?

BBC Science Focus: When did humans first make music?