How recently have you felt stopped in your tracks by a moment of wonder?
The world melted away as you stood in awe?
Put yourself in that moment. What was it like to see your first firefly light up? Isn’t it tingly + delicious?
Do you + wonder dance together often? Or is wonder a dim memory?
Wonder—what are we talking about? A state of awe, fascination, being absorbed by curiosity + discovery, & dancing in harmony with knowing + not knowing… this is wonder. We see it on children’s faces as they WOW in watching a butterfly emerge from a cocoon or a rainbow appear after a thundershower.
Why is wonder important as an adult?
Wonder positively benefits health, creativity + community.
- Wonder + Awe—Awe is a state of uncertainty that stills us when we face the incredible and try to take it in. Wonder adds a reflective feeling as we attempt to understand the marvel of something that transcends our familiar frameworks. Being fully absorbed by the vastness + connectedness of nature, life, & creative possibilities puts us in a state of wonder + awe. Ecstasy, from the Greek word ekstasis—to stand outside oneself and allow the divine in—is our wonder + awe.
- Ready, Set, Wonder—One of the quickest ways to tap into wonder is for at least one minute, look at actual (or videos of) giant redwood trees, waterfalls, space or whales. Focus on whatever gives you a feeling of vastness, & consequently a new perspective on the world and our place in it. Once tuned in to wonder, our creative flow heightens.
- The Science of Wonder—Science is beginning to support what we know in our bones about the health benefits of wonder.
Wonder has been shown in experiments to increase collaboration & innovation, slow down the perception of the passage of time & promote good health.
People who experience wonder + awe regularly tend to live with higher overall positive emotions & lower inflammation levels (high inflammation is often present with a host of conditions including heart disease & cancer).
Proinflammatory cytokines, triggered by negative emotions, encourage social withdrawal and reduce our desire to explore—the opposite of wonder. Their presence in our blood elicits an inflammatory response that can be helpful short-term as we recover from injury or illness. But long-term they are associated with diabetes, depression and heart disease.
Some researchers are citing chronic awe deprivation as a factor in our societal shift toward being more self-focused, less connected to others & more materialistic. Experiments have shown the vastness we encounter when in awe inspires a more modest, less narcissistic self, which energizes more kindness and altruism towards others.
As science progresses in studying states of awe + wonder, new physiological aspects emerge. Awe + wonder create trackable changes in brainwaves—greater alpha suppression in both hemispheres in the occipital/parietal and frontal areas.
In a Berkeley study, each burst of daily appreciation of wonder—hearing music on a street corner at 2:30AM or watching autumn leaves dance to the ground—predicted greater well-being and curiosity as late as weeks after.
Opening ourselves to what we don’t fully understand, marveling at the incredible—there is magic & wellness in these states.
What we focus on we grow. When we seek daily wonder + awe we are better & happier for it.