Do you know about the ten keys to wellbeing? Our wellbeing consultant, Jen Wood, shares her thoughts on awe and how it can be helpful for us.

"Awe is a word that I have loved for as long as I can remember. For me, it describes the emotional reaction I have to a firework display or to being on a small boat approaching the Niagara Falls. The word evokes memories of heightened perception and excitement for me. Something that suddenly brought me out of my day to day worries.

Albert Einstein said, 'He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed'.

Rumi said, 'Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment'.

The clients I see in my clinic who are experiencing mental health challenges, seem to have lost this ability to see awe in the world.

The Collins Dictionary defines awe as 'the feeling of respect and amazement that you have when you are faced with something wonderful and often rather frightening'.

I’m going to focus on the positive effect, rather than the fear, in this article.

So what is awe?

It’s a deep, transcendent and multifaceted emotion, and has beneficial effects. It has a positive effect on our nervous system. It has been associated with the radical spiritual transformation of the self, but it’s now become secularised. However, it’s that momentary opening up to something greater than ourselves which I have noticed in my experience. Perhaps I’m having a bad day, and I look up and see a rainbow of the most vibrant colours, and it lifts me out of my worry or misery and I open up to a new way of seeing. 

Why might it helpful?

  • It feels great, and helps to amplify other positive emotions like wonder, amazement, joy and gratitude, which are all associated with increased wellbeing.
  • It increases our satisfaction with life.
  • It encourages us to be more curious and creative, as well as helping us to rise above our problems and see the bigger picture.
  • It encourages us to be more open and generous, as we see life beyond ourselves.
  • It is associated with better physical and mental health.
  • It helps us to see our place in the universe and gain perspective. It’s not all about us.                   

How can I develop this positive state of awe?

  • See the world through the curious eyes of a child and rediscover the wonder in the world. For example, notice the architecture of a leaf or the pattern on a butterfly. Notice the tiny things and the huge things. Find the ‘wow’ moment in something.
  • Disconnect from technology and connect with something that opens you up to a feeling of being connected to something greater that you.
  • Listen to a piece of music that lifts you, and reminds you of the passion and commitment of the person who composed it and the many others who have listened to it.
  • Look at art that has an emotional impact on you.
  • Spend time in nature – walk in a forest or along a beach – and marvel at its perfection.
  • Look up at the clear night sky or the full moon, and take in the beauty and enormity of it.

How could you find awe in the world today?"

(Source: Greater Good Science Centre, UC Berkeley)

Jen Wood is an emotional wellbeing coach, therapist and mindfulness teacher with 20 years’ experience. She is also our wellbeing consultant at The Yard. Jen is offering weekly bite-sized videos sharing mindfulness techniques and wellbeing tools for our members. For more information about Jen, visit