Feeling awe and wonder can be good for your mental health and your body. Here’s how to find more every day.

Children often experience wonder, their little minds blown away as they marvel at an extraordinary new discovery. But what about adults? When was the last time you felt awe, that mixture of fear, respect, and wonder that comes over you when you look up at the Grand Canyon, witness a rare astronomical phenomenon, or see any other sight beyond your comprehension?

Here’s why it’s important. Research suggests that both awe and wonder can improve a person’s mental health and overall well-being, from reducing inflammation to generating a sense of calm. Experts also say that finding things that inspire those feelings is a lot easier than most people think. Read on to learn more about the benefits of awe and wonder and how to create a practice that allows you to experience them every day.

Each of our emotions comes with a ripple effect of physiological and psychological markers. Some are beneficial; others can be harmful over time. Scientists who study the sense of awe we experience when we encounter something beyond comprehension, which can lead to wonder, a state of reflective curiosity, think it does something unique among positive emotions: you offers a plethora of feel-good chemicals like love. hormone, oxytocin, but also calms the nervous system, slowing the heart rate and eliminating the fight-or-flight response.

Fear is good for you, says Dacher Keltner, a social psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley, who studies emotion (and wrote the book about it, Awe: The new science of everyday wonder and how it can transform your life), he tells Yahoo Life. Based on her own research and that of others, she says that admiration helps reduce stress, helps reduce anxiety, and helps cardiovascular function. [and] helps reduce inflammation in the body. Their research has shown that experiences of awe are also linked to elevated vagal tone, a marker of activation of the vagus nerve, which is this big bundle of nerves that really helps you stay calm and adjust to the world, explains Keltner.

A 2021 study found that people who report experiencing more fear have lower markers of inflammation and are more likely to say they are satisfied with their lives. Add to that wonderful bonds with less loneliness and a greater sense of connection with others, and it’s just one of the best things we can cultivate right now, says Keltner.

Awe happens when we have an experience of something vast and somehow beyond our understanding, experts say. This immensity can lead to what scientists call a smaller sense of self. You might feel like you’re a little more insignificant, or that there’s something bigger that’s reducing your self-interest, Sean Goldy, a postdoctoral researcher who studies awe at the Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research, tells Yahoo Life. It opens people up to things outside of themselves and makes them more in tune with others. In their research, the more impressive an experience shared by two people, the more connected they felt to each other.

Because we’re in a state of uncertainty when we experience something that challenges our expectations, and understanding that can help us be more open and, in turn, creative. Awe lessens your need for what’s called cognitive closure, or the need to be certain, Beau Lotto, neuroscientist and founder of the Misfits private lab, tells Yahoo Life. We have a great need for this sense of closure, but creativity and so much of what is beautiful in life requires delaying this closure. Curiosity that is inspired by admiration and wonder enhances it.

With curiosity comes more tolerance and what scientists call a prosocial mindset, Lottos’ research suggests. His team analyzed cortisol levels and various brain signatures of feelings of intolerance of anger or aggression and found that an experience of wonder (in this case, seeing Cirque du Soleil performers) attenuated these negative consequences, he explains .

We stereotype wonder and wonder how these really rare and rare and expensive experiences we’ve only had on vacations in faraway places, Keltner says. But in reality, awe and wonder are just basic ways of relating to everything around you where you can always be amazed at what is vast and mysterious.

Although natural wonders like Mount Kilimanjaro or Niagara Falls are likely to inspire awe, they fall into only one category of what Keltner describes as the eight wonders of life: the moral beauty of others, the collective movement , nature, visual design, music, spirituality, big ideas, and the life cycle (especially the beginning or end of life).

Nature and interpersonal experiences tend to be the most common sources of awe, but there are many variations, Goldy says. It amazes me going to the beach, hiking, or watching sunsets, but I’ve also found it in really meaningful connections with people, of opening up and not being afraid to be vulnerable with people and connect.

In other words, you may be experiencing wonder, or at least having opportunities to be frightened, more often than you realize: in conversations, while walking past flowers, at a concert, or even while reading a good book book at home, says Goldy.

Experts insist that wonder is everywhere, but it may take some practice and awareness to recognize these moments. I feel like we overlook opportunities for awe, says Keltner, who developed his eight-wonder framework after finding himself in awe following the death of his siblings. He went in search of wonder and often found it staring at the water, which brought revealing feelings of calm and warm contemplation.

One of the surprising misconceptions right now is that you have this big, transcendent experience, and then your life is different, says Keltner, who has collaborated with others to design breathtaking walks. And that’s not how it works. As with sports, diets or sleep, you need to build a practice.

He says that devoting yourself to spending just five minutes a day in nature, listening to music, looking at art, looking for the moral beauty in the people around you, or engaging in spiritual experiences are everyday ways to surprise yourself if you perceive things with intention.

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