I was lucky enough to see a total eclipse last month. At the moment of totality, we safely viewed the eclipse with our naked eyes. People cheered, laughed, and cried out.
My own reaction surprised me. I was overcome by emotions — shock, humility, and exhilaration. Tears filled my eyes.
I was in awe.
A Mysterious Emotion That May Be Good For You
Psychologists and neuroscientists are studying how and why we feel awe. The field of research is new; initial studies have found that:
- We may be able to think more deeply and analytically after feeling awe
- Awe makes us more generous and more satisfied with our lives
- Awe is good for our health and may boost our immune system
Five Ways to Find Awe in NYC and Beyond
Cognitive scientists recreated awe in the lab by showing nature videos to test participants. Here are five other techniques I’ve used to find awe in daily life.
Survey the World from a Rooftop
Connecting to nature in a city sometimes is difficult, but roof access is usually pretty easy. Choose a rooftop and take ten quiet minutes to really look out at the expanse.
Spend Time Among Tall Trees
There are over 5 million trees in New York City and you might find awe underneath one of them. One of my favorite forests is the Ravine in Prospect Park. I also wrote a step-by-step guide to noticing your closest tree.
Sit in front of a work of art. Take your time. You may want to listen music in ear buds as it can help you ignore distractions. Some of my favorite “sit spots” are at the Met, the Brooklyn Museum, The Drawing Center, and the New York Earth Room.
Step Inside a Soaring Space
Architecture can inspire awe. In this self-experiment, step inside a cathedral, museum, or other grand public space. A few suggestions in New York City are St. John the Divine, the Cloisters, the Guggenheim, or Grand Central. Do you feel taken out of yourself and connected to something larger?
Consider the Night Sky
The night sky can be truly awesome. If you want to learn more about the night sky in NYC, I highly recommend visiting the Hayden Planetarium. Their Astronomy Live events are incredible.
Bonus: Take a Guided Awe Walk Right Now
If you want to start right now, Mindful.org put together a video of a guided awe walk meditation through the Muir Woods in California. Enjoy!
Does awe really help to sharpen the brain and open the heart? I’m curious if you’ve seen any effects in your own life. Do you have suggestions for other ways to find awe? I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below.