Word-Of-the-Week #986: Wonder

June 29, 2023 by · Comments Off on Word-Of-the-Week #986: Wonder 

Wonder – the emotion aroused by something awe-inspiring, astounding, or surprising.

When was the last time you felt a sense of amazement? Have you ever taken an “awe walk”?

This week features the first half of NY Times writer Jancee Dunn, An ‘awe walk’ can be found right in your own neighborhood. Looking for wonder, one step at a time, can be key to helping you restore, heal, connect.”

“It’s officially summer, an ideal time to look at walking tips and inspiration. 

I’m exploring “awe walks,” outdoor rambles intended to cultivate a sense of amazement. To help, I enlisted Dacher Keltner, a professor of psychology at the University of California Berkeley and the author of “Awe: The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How It Can Transform Your Life.” 

Awe, Keltner explained, is that complex emotion we experience when encountering something so vast that our sense of self recedes. It can be positive or negative (like the feelings that come from witnessing violence or death), but the awe that feels good is the type found in moments of wonder and humility. 

Many people associate awe with places like the Grand Canyon, Keltner said. But some feel it more frequently in response to commonplace things like a nighttime sky blazing with stars, he said. In short: Awe is more accessible than you might think. 

Arctic Summer Sunset

And research suggests it’s good for your health, too. Awe can help calm the nervous system, reduce inflammation and foster a sense of community (even if you experience the emotion alone). People who took awe walks, one study found, felt more upbeat and hopeful than walkers who did not. 

These walks also have restorative benefits, said Keltner, who has seen the positive effects firsthand. When his daughter was younger, she had anxiety and became preoccupied with dying, he said. So they began to take nightly awe walks to a giant cedar tree in their neighborhood. Together, they touched the tree’s bark and talked about the cycle of life. As the months passed, this ritual connected them to nature and each other, Keltner said, as his daughter went from being “freaked out about dying” to getting “a sense of ‘this is just part of life.’ ” 

“An awe walk can be a healing ritual,” he said. “Twelve years later, I still walk to touch that tree.” 

Ready to try it? Here’s how: 

  • Decide on a place

You can pick somewhere you’ve never been, Keltner said, adding that you’re more likely to feel awe in an environment where the sights and sounds are unfamiliar — a local park or trail you’ve never visited, a new neighborhood in your city or town, a body of water if you live near one. Or you can travel to a familiar spot and imagine that you’re seeing it for the first time, he said. 

No matter where you go, the fleeting beauty of a dawn sky or sunset has been shown to cultivate awe. 

Once you’ve arrived at your spot, give yourself at least 20 minutes of uninterrupted time. If you can, turn off your phone. Then take a few deep breaths “to shift out of our hyper task-focused mind,” Keltner said. Breathe in for four counts, hold for four, breathe out for six. Do this for a few minutes. Then start walking.”

This week’s focus is on wonder. When was the last time you just sat and watched the sunset? Or saw a nighttime sky blazing with stars? What have you done lately that was awe-inspiring?

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WOW Word-Of-the-Week #364: Wonder

July 25, 2011 by · Comments Off on WOW Word-Of-the-Week #364: Wonder 

Wonder – inexplicable by the laws of nature; filled with curiosity.

Are you naturally inquisitive? Are you amazed by archeological sites like the Pyramids in Egypt and wonder how they were ever built? Do you find yourself filled with curiosity about the world as you get older?

“The meaning I picked, the one that changed my life: Overcome fear, behold wonder.”   ~ Richard Bach

This week’s WOW has two different definitions on purpose.  I am filled with curiosity about traveling and seeing the world. In the summer of 2007, more than 90 million people cast their votes to determine which architectural marvels in the world deserved to be one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. There were a total of twenty-one landmarks vying for that title.

The Pyramiids of Giza

Of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World, only the Great Pyramids in Giza, Egypt still stand. The pyramids were given an automatic spot after infuriated Egyptian officials said it was a disgrace to have to compete for something that had belonged to their country for so long. I agree!

It is our goal to see all twenty-one landmarks. Also, Chris and I have collectively seen a lot of the twenty-one, however, not together. So the rule is, we go back and see all of them – together! So far we have been to the Pyramids and two of the New Wonders – Chichen Itza and the Great Wall of China. As for the runner ups we have been to five of them – The Statue of Liberty, Sydney Opera House, the Acropolis, Hagia Sophia and the Eiffel Tower.

What I am really surprised about is how much I enjoy history and geography. I hated school! (Probably because they dictated what I should learn.) This week focus on what your wonders are. What subjects or hobbies are you curious about?  Do you like watching the History or Discovery Channel? Do you have a desire to visit any of the Wonders of the World?

Reader Responses

“I have a goal of seeing the new 7 wonders as well.  Rog and I climbed all over Chichen Itza.  Were you able to climb their pyramids or was it blocked off by then?  Fabulous place.” – Elaine

“I hope this finds you well. WOW is one of my favorite words. Every restaurant needs some. Cheers!” – Phyllis