It’s been clear to me for the past few years that the collective mental health in the U.S. has been a mix of mass trauma, depression, stagnation, powerlessness, existential anxiety, and even delusion. A recent survey showed that 88% of Americans are dissatisfied with the trajectory of our country, so regardless of one’s specific perspective, very few of us are feeling hopeful.
I’ve previously written about radical self-care – taking good care of oneself in the face of a society that wants us to believe that we don’t matter unless we do certain things to comply with the structures set up to work for the 12%. In the face of this powerlessness, it is so much more important to take good care of ourselves so that we have the strength to fight for our voices to be represented – the definition of empowerment.
Shifting Our Perspective Through Awe
As a trauma therapist, I am writing each of you a prescription for awe. Yes, awe. Awe is a powerful emotion that shifts our perspective by exposing us to something our brains can’t fathom. It opens our minds to new possibilities and connections to make sense from a different perspective.
Awe is proven to sharpen our brains so that we can better problem-solve, apply critical thinking, and feel connected with something bigger than us. It is very effective at disrupting cycles of rumination and reduces depression and anxiety.
It’s like fleas in a jar with a lid on. They initially bump against the lid, trying to get out, then stop trying because they’ve learned the limits of their freedom; their perspective is limited to what they can see from within the jar. You can take the lid off, and they still won’t go high enough to realize that the lid is gone.
To me, awe shows us that the boundary isn’t there anymore, that you can fly out and gain a new perspective, see new possibilities, and feel like part of something bigger than the jar.
How to Cultivate Awe in Your Life
How can you harness that power of awe and make a difference in your own life right now? The three most accessible and effective pathways are nature, art, and spirituality. It doesn’t even have to take more than a few minutes a day to purposefully cultivate awe in your life and reap the benefits. Here are a few ways that I cultivate awe in my own life:
- I am privileged to live near a park with a beautiful forested trail along the water. Every day I take my dog and cat (Herbie and Phryne) down the path for a walk. My senses come to life in awe of my connections with the land, my critters, and this universe that we still know so little about.
- I created a playlist with my favorite songs throughout my life, so every day, while I do mundane things, I allow all of myself to flow with the music. Each song transports me to my true self at that age, dancing and singing along too – it feels like sending myself a love letter through the chords.
- I am fascinated by energy and nerd out on the intersection of quantum physics and spirituality. I visualize the energy of the universe as little squiggly fibers extending into the center of me (see the banner image above). I do this every day for a minute or two while I’m on the toilet. Yep – it’s something we do regularly, and habits form much more efficiently when we attach them to something we already do.
The Possibilities are Endless
You can do it too. Just look at the latest images from the James Webb telescope that have been in the news lately. Allow yourself to imagine the possibilities that must exist in the universe and notice how each resonates through your senses. Use that information to continue refining your awareness and hone in on the things that inspire awe in you. This is where you will find the center of you.
Talk to a Trauma Therapist
If you are having trouble cultivating awe in your life, you are not alone. It can be difficult to feel hopeful, inspired, and curious about the world when there’s so much negativity. I, Laura Bruco, MSW, will help you navigate through these conflicting thoughts and emotions so you can gain clarity and see the beauty around you.
Join my intensive therapy program to learn more about awe and how to harness its power. I will also help you deal with other issues you might have. For more information, please see the program and booking details here. You may also reach me through the online form.