Daily Prompt: Volunteer
I stumbled across an article recently that is a perfect sequel to a post I wrote about forest bathing. The article discusses the six basic emotions we all have – anger, fear, happiness, sadness, disgust, surprise – and one other, that until now was considered a “luxury” emotion, the feeling of awe. According to Psychologist Dacher Keltner at the University of California, awe is “the feeling of being in the presence of something vast or beyond human scale, that transcends our current understanding of things.” The Grand Canyon, Statue of Liberty or an amazing harvest moon come to mind. But Keltner says that awe can also be something much more accessible, like a surprise from a friend or a unique pattern of shadows or leaves. In other words, we can find awe all around us in nature and our daily lives.
Studies have shown that awe can lead us to work more collaboratively, see things in new ways or just make us nicer, happier people. Not bad! But here’s the awesome part. Awe, like forest bathing, can alter our bodies. It’s a positive emotion that can result in reduced levels of cytokines, which are markers of inflammation linked to depression. One great way to harness the healing power of awe is to take an “Awe Walk.” And I don’t think it has to necessarily be in the forest. Travel, seeing new things in your own city, or just being open to God’s beauty around us wherever we are has the potential to up your awe quotient. So can appreciating the tiny, many times overlooked gestures from our loved ones and friends. I’m also convinced that being of service to others is another powerful means of experiencing this emotion. Bottom line, finding, or even looking, for big and small moments of awe in your life can be a potent remedy for the “slings and arrows” we’re often dodging.
So, now I know that taking a walk in the forest can boost my immunity and health… and witnessing something awesome along the way can be transformative, inspiring and healing. It’s quite empowering, this knowledge.