sun going under in sea

4 ways to cultivate awe in order to increase your mental well-being

Curious how to renew your (employees’) energy to make plans for a more hopeful future? Rigorous research on what makes us feel inspired and energized states that cultivating experiences of awe is the key to do so.

The power of unselfing
University of Michigan psychologist Ethan Kross defines awe as “the wonder we feel when we encounter something powerful that we can’t easily explain.” New research found that beyond physical effects like a lowered heart rate under stress, awe affects us emotionally. The researchers asked two groups of participants to draw themselves. Those that had an awe experience, drew themselves smaller in size afterwards than those that didn’t engage in an awe experience.

This phenomenon is what the researchers called unselfing, and unselfing has two big benefits. First of all if you tap into something larger, your sense of self shrinks, so too do your mental chatter and your worries. At the same time, your desire to help and connect with others increases. And to top it off, people who experience awe also report higher levels of overall life satisfaction and well-being.

Last week we wrote about how the Western society, which focuses too much on the individual, is putting our mental well-being under pressure. As the results of this research shows, experiencing awe is a great way to reduce worries and connect with others which in their turn also help us to experience mental well-being. The good news is you can easily cultivate awe for your employees (and yourself) according to Harvard Business Review.

How to cultivate awe?

Take an awe walk

A simple yet effective way to experience awe is by stepping away from your desk and going for an awe stroll.  Take twenty minutes to wander, be curious, and observe the everyday beauty around you – even in your own yard or neighbourhood.

Benjamin Davies

Next level awe walk

Even better, take a walk in nature. Walks in nature have proven to have a greater positive effect on our mood and well-being than walks in urban environments. Nature is an immersive experience of growth and resilience; it can be a powerful source of wonder and awe. It helps us remind ourselves we’re part of nature as well. 

At home awe stimulations

Studies have shown that videos can stimulate awe as well. Think about award-winning documentaries such as Planet Earth. Not only movies but also the harmony and complexity of music can elevate and inspire awe. Create your own awe playlist, with songs that draw you into what you’re seeing and hearing. Another way to create moments of awe is by asking yourself the simple question: “What’s beautiful here?”

Awe at work

Create opportunities to share experiences of awe by starting meetings with questions like “what took your breath away this week?” or “what made you glad you’re on this planet?”. For example, have your colleagues‘ awe moments projected on the wall.

While we’re used to spent lots of time trying to stand out, be bold, and unique, an increasing body of research points towards the fact that our feelings of smallness brings more meaning to our lives. We’re curious to see if more companies will aim for smallness in their teams. Leaving team members more inspired, engaged and resilient.