It seems like I’m being chased by an idea this month: the importance to human psychology of experiences that inspire awe.
Today, it popped up in the midst of a meeting at my dayjob, when we were were looking at other websites that we might want to use as a model for changes we want to make on our own. There on the front page of the ASU News, “Take It In: The Science of Awe.”
According to Associate Professor Michelle “Lani” Shiota, you can improve your mental health by cultivating the feeling of awe. Who, in 2023, doesn’t need a mental health boost?
“Awe is that feeling you get when you perceive something as extraordinary — something so different from what your mind is used to that it stops whatever it was doing to pay attention. It’s great for giving our racing thoughts a break, and putting our day-to-day hassles and demands into perspective.”
As a suburban dweller, it’s easy to get lost in the asphalt and concrete landscape. Finding the kinds of things that are awe-inspiring usually requires a bit of planning and travel.
But I was reminded last night and again tonight as I was driving home from work in the post-storm sunset that there is one incredible, awe-inspiring vista that is always accessible, no matter where we live…and that’s they sky.
As shimmers of gold and pink streaked the cloudscape, I knew I had to get a picture. I took turns and cut down side streets (always safely, I promise!) looking for a spot where I could take a picture of the glorious artwork shifting across the sky. But because I do live in the suburban jungle, where a clear view of the horizon is hard to come by, it was impossible, either night, to find a spot unencumbered with the peaks of buildings, telephone poles and wires before the light had faded into something less remarkable.
It was a little disappointing. But I have since reminded myself that moments of awe don’t exist to be captured on film or shared on social media. Awe is not something to be chased down, but recognized. It can happen at any time, even when you’re just driving home from work.