There are many words that are overused to the point of being meaningless – awesome is one of them.
A true definition of awe relates to an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration or fear – an emotional response produced by something that is grand, sublime and extremely powerful. But over time, its meaning or use has evolved to describe the mundane, and because of this, the power of the word has diminished. You may ask why all this matters? Simple: we need awe, real awe, in our lives as it increases our happiness and overall sense of wellbeing. Have we lost our ability to be inspired?
A recent study led by Dr Paul Piff from the University of California found that real awe causes people to become more interested in pro-social behaviours, such as investing in the greater good, giving more to charity, volunteering to help others, or doing more to lessen their impact on the environment. Piff proposes that when we experience awe, whether a landscape that takes our breath away or looking up at the stars, it serves an important collective function by focusing the attention away from ourselves to others.
To increase our happiness, we need to make small, meaningful changes each day to open ourselves up to awe. When the day gets stressful, take the time to reflect on a moment that gave you great joy or, if it is an inescapably negative situation, take a moment to focus on
the one positive aspect of that situation.
Take the time to savour pleasurable memories, and be aware of building awe-inspiring moments into your life by slowing things down and focusing on things that bring meaning and value, whether that be a beautiful sunrise or simply the smile of a loved one.