The Natural Phenomenon Science Says May Ease Depression (& 7 Ways To Find It)

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woman backlit by the sun, looking peaceful

Surely, you have experienced a moment of awe at some time in your life.

Maybe you experienced it at a concert, the birth of a child, playing with your dog, during a fireworks display, or while walking in an alpine meadow. 

Think back to those time and how that feeling impacted you. What did you feel in your body, heart and mind? Did your current state of being completely shift? Did it change how you viewed the world?

Experiencing awe is good for your soul. It focuses on transcending the ordinary experience of daily life.

And it turns out, awe may also be good for your mind — and for your life.

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People are now researching how awe impacts us individually and as communities. Such research is presented in the scholarly article called, Awe as a Pathway to Mental and Physical Health; the author details scientific proof of how wonderment can positively impact mental health.

According to Science Daily, research completed by the Unversity of California found that experiencing a sense of wonderment can also be a great stress reducer. That’s something everyone can benefit from during the experience. 

Here are a few examples of how awe positively impacts mental health:

  • Reduced anxiety, depression
  • Increased generosity
  • More energy
  • An increased interest in personal growth
  • A greater desire to connect with others
  • Less focus on self
  • Increased altruistic behaviour
  • Increased sense of well-being

However, not all experiences of awe are a positive experience. Experiences that invoke terror hurt your mental health. Researchers call this Negative Awe. In this article, the primary focus is Positive Awe.

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Here are seven ways to seek an experience of awe that benefits your mental health

1. Take awe excursions in nature.

Walking in nature is a powerful place to experience awe. You can find nature near wherever you live. Even downtown, look for the dandelions growing through the cracks of the sidewalk, squirrels darting through parks and streets, birds singing, and insects — marvel at how they thrive in a concrete jungle. 

What are your favorite places to go? Do you love going on hikes in alpine meadows? What about walking through fields in the flat prairies? How about listening to the sounds of water as you walk along a beach or river? Where in your community have you had an experience of awe?

How does it feel to soak in the view of high mountains, with lakes, rivers and beautiful forests? Inhale the refreshing smell of the air. Notice how all the sensations, emotions, and wonder revitalize every cell in your body.

What do you experience in your body? What emotions do you experience in your heart?

Does your mind quiet down? Slow down to soak up the power of the experience.

Doctors are even giving people prescriptions to spend time in Canada’s National Parks. Where do you like to nurture your soul? Where have you not been that you would like to go?

All you have to do is walk out your door and see what to experience. Where can you look to have an experience of awe?

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2. Visit places that inspire you.

Where are the places that inspire you? Maybe it is a Cathedral, Mosque, or Temple. It also could be your backyard, a museum, an art gallery, a favourite street, a favorite city or a town.

If you love performing arts, you may find awe at concerts, plays, ballet, or even sporting matches.

Do you have a favorite restaurant that makes fantastic food? Food taste, smell, texture and colour can take you to a place of wonder and joy. 

Have you been to a concert, and it felt like time stopped and you felt transported to a different world? It is not just the moment; the experiences can impact you for hours and days.

Maybe you have a favorite place to go in the summer, like a cottage, campground, or park that recharges your batteries every time you go. You always come away feeling better than you left.

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3. Practice mindful meditation.

Meditation can help you to go within. Meditation can help you get grounded in your body, open your heart and quiet your mind. 

There are many forms of meditation and prayer. It would help if you explored different types of meditation to find one that works for you. If you are part of a religious community, you might want to explore your traditions.

If you don’t know where to start, many Apps and books can help you. I use Insight Timer and appreciate there is a free and paid versions.

Science and experience show us that there is a link between finding awe in seeing something breathtaking like Niagra Falls, and experiencing the same sense of awe in meditation.

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4. Hang out with a child.

Children have a great imagination. Playing with children can help you to find your inner child. Children can help us to see the mystery of awe in everyday life.

Children have an innocence that reminds us what it is like to experience something for the first time. When was the last time you made a snow fort?

When was the last time you made a house with leaves?

Children will reveal awe to you in places that you forgot to look. Without thinking, children have experiences of awe — it comes naturally to them.

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5. Connect with awe-inspiring stories.

Do you have a favorite book or movie? What is it about the story that helps you repeatedly experience the mystery and awe of life? I can often watch the film “Chariots of Fire” because the visuals, story, acting and music open my heart. I come away every time feeling a sense of profound hope.

What is that movie for you? 

6. Use media to experience awe.

In the world of the internet, you have access to excellent videos and images that you can use to connect with your soul. You might find these resources as tools to help you meditate.

Pick a video of something in nature and watch it while paying attention to your emotions, sensations, and thoughts. To help you integrate what you experience, you might want to journal, write prose, poetry, or create something visual.

RELATED: How To Reframe Fear And Allow Yourself To Embrace Joy

7. Listen to inspirational music.

Music is a powerful tool for experiencing awe. What is your favourite music? What types of music inspire you?

What band or artist takes you to new places where suddenly you find energy and hope for the world? What band has brought your closer to having an experience of awe?

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The good news is that you can experience awe in everyday life. It is looking for the extraordinary in the ordinary.

When you are in the midst of an awe experience, slow down and notice what is happening within you.

Appreciate the experience through your senses, e.g. sight, hearing, smell, texture, colour and sound. Unplug from any electric gadgets that take you away from experience.

Seeking an experience of awe can help you to find joy amid chaos. It is a powerful way to reduce stress while simultaneously finding happiness and connection.

Find whatever works for you in helping you access awe, which is all around us, if you take the time to notice what is happening around you and within you. It is food for your soul and can bring you the joy you never dreamed of having.

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Roland Legge is a Certified Spiritual Life Coach and a minister. He helps his clients connect to their true selves through coaching sessions and workshops.