Life is full of small and great wonders that leave us speechless. Cultivating the ability to wonder each day will encourage us to appreciate life more and will motivate us to be more altruistic people.
Current research in the field of psychology shows that amazement is one of the positive emotions that correlate with well-being and human flourishing. Albert Einstein has already predicted it “One cannot help but be amazed when contemplating the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the wonderful structure of reality. It is enough to try to understand a little bit of this mystery every day never lose that sacred curiosity ”.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE ARE AMAZED?
Researcher Barbara Fredrickson, from the University of North Carolina, says that wonder is related to inspiration and explains that we feel awe when we come across “the good on a grand scale,” when we are overwhelmed by the great.
We can be amazed by nature, for example, the vastness of the ocean or the perfection of a beehive. Human nature can also amaze us when we contemplate its best side: when observing cave paintings painted thousands of years ago, or when a surgeon can successfully operate on the heart of a fetus that is still in the mother’s womb to correct a wrong congenital.
Barbara Fredrickson, author of Positive Life (Norma Editorial), also explains that amazement makes us stop for a moment and feel small and humble to know that we are part of something much bigger than ourselves.
For this reason, amazement, along with gratitude and inspiration, are considered by psychologists as transcendent emotions, that is, they lead us to see beyond our own self, to feel part of divine creation, or of nature , or of a nation, or of humanity.
WHAT CAN THIS EFFECT HAVE ON US?
The American professors Dacher Keltner and Jonathan Haidt discovered in a joint study that amazement includes both the feeling of vastness the enormousness of a mountain or the celestial vault, for example – as well as “placement”.
This refers to the fact that, sometimes, the magnitude of what we witness does not “fit” in our mental structures and we need to expand or change them. This challenge can cause us a temporary confusion or disorientation, but also a feeling of “rebirth” or even “enlightenment” when a new expanded understanding arrives about the world or about us.
Although the feeling of wonder is mainly associated with “huge” things, such as a shower of shooting stars, and special events, such as seeing an athlete surpass an Olympic mark, let’s not forget that small things can also amaze us, from the perfection of the web of a spider to the perfectly orchestrated functioning of our own body. It’s not hard to marvel at the great, but sometimes we forget to carefully see, hear, smell, and feel our world every day, which is also full of opportunities to wonder.
Another source of wonder that often goes unexplored is that of the people around us. We think that someone is an “ordinary” or even boring person, but if we talk to them, if we are interested in their stories and experiences, we may find surprises about what they have done, what they know, their qualities or their talents.
One day I found out that one of my co-workers is going to donate a kidney to someone who is not a close relative. I was amazed at his loving generosity. Another day I learned that the taxi driver who usually takes me to the office is a musician and plays in a rock band, as well as being a plumber, carpenter and electrician. I was amazed at its versatility.
RITUAL TO CULTIVATE THE CAPACITY FOR WONDER
As with all other positive emotions, we can not only enjoy the moments of wonder in our lives, but we can cultivate daily wonder. David Pollay, executive director of the IPPA (International Positive Psychology Association), has written about a ritual of awe he has performed daily for more than twelve years.
- Start the day by going to the window, open the curtain and look outside.
- He begins by observing the things in the environment that catch his attention and let himself be carried away by that fascination.
- Wherever he is, David Pollay always finds something astounding that reminds him that the world is so much bigger than him and his problems. He expresses it very well “Every time I look out the window, I realize that the universe does not revolve around me but includes me.”
Now it’s your turn if you could devise a personal awe ritual, what would you do? What helps you connect with the vast and wonderful of the world? When do you tend to feel in awe? Can you deliberately include these experiences in the day? What if an entire family, or a work group, or a school, started the day, like David Pollay, with a dose of wonder? I invite you to do the test.