Meditation is a tool that anyone can use to tap into a sense of calm as and when they need it. You can think of meditation almost as a ‘place’ that you can go to in order to get away from it all. The only difference is that this ‘place’ is always there, and you don’t have to leave your house!
But meditation is just one example of a tool we can use to ‘reset’ our mental state as it were. Another that is just effective – though slightly less convenient – is to seek out moments of ‘awe’.
What do we mean by awe?
Essentially, any moment where you feel overwhelmed by the scale and beauty of what you’re seeing. Perhaps the most classic example is when you emerge at the top of a mountain hike to discover a beautiful vista unfolding beneath you. That moment where your breath is taken away – is a moment of awe.
So, what exactly is going on here? What’s the brain chemistry? Why is it good for us? And what is the evolutionary function of such a mood?
As far as the best guesses go, we now believe that this sense of awe is triggered by the release of hormones in response to massive restructuring of the brain’s neural networks. In short, you suddenly feel ‘small’, and what you’re seeing is forcing you to rethink your position.
That’s why we can equally feel the same way when looking at something of supreme beauty, or when gazing at the stars. At this moment, the bar has been reset and we are forced to look at things differently. The need for such restructuring will come with a cascade of neurotransmitters and hormones that will support this change. And that’s what makes us feel good in that moment.
But in the long term, this is extremely good for us, because it helps us to restructure neural connections that might otherwise have been negative – and to get out of our own heads for a moment.
To put it another way, it’s a great way to get your life in perspective and to remember the grand scale of the world and universe around you. It’s harder to think that the interview you have tomorrow is the worst thing in the world when you’re forced to remember that you are not even a speck on the cosmic canvas.
So, head out for a walk. And if you can’t do that, then just spend some time thinking deeply about a topic that amazes you.
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