When is the last time you might say you were in awe of something? Can you think of the last experience or situation that caused you to utter the word “wow”? Maybe it was when you looked outside your window this morning to see a fresh coat of white snow covering everything. When you watched an amazing athlete on TV or when you were taken aback by the electric feeling of music filling a large arena? A surprise party? Or the first bite of an incredible, homemade dessert?
If you’re anything like most Americans, awe and wonder aren’t necessarily feelings we encounter with great regularity. We tend to assume that they’re reserved for astonishing or completely out-of-the-ordinary events.
However, a recent study revealed that you don’t need particularly remarkable encounters to experience wonder. In fact, when we’re intentional in trying to notice awe, it can pop up in the simplest of places: the generosity of a friend, a song on the radio that prompts a certain memory or attachment, or the shape of clouds as you look up in the sky. This particular study suggested an array of health benefits to the experience of awe, as well—reduced stress, better heart function, and overall more positive mood.
The key finding was this: you have to practice it. The act of wonder doesn’t necessarily come naturally to many of us. But, the more intentional a person is at noticing the detail of a flower or expressing appreciation for a simple conversation, the more each person in this study reported increased happiness and decreased anxiety or worry.
Some of my favorite words of scripture come from Psalm 8, which is essentially an entire poem dedicated to expressing awe for God’s creation:
“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? O Lord, our God, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”
In short, the Psalmist says: “Wow!” I’d like to think they’re practicing being in awe, noticing God’s presence all around them. And it’s a great reminder for each of us, too. Every opportunity to marvel at beauty and goodness and kindness around us is a chance to see that we’re part of something much larger than just ourselves.
So, what might cause you to say “wow” today? There’s no shortage of options. Just practice your sense of awe… and notice the joy and vibrancy of life that follows.