☆ FEATURED GUEST BLOG ☆: ‘Awe is the Antidote to Everyday Stress’ By Polly Campbell
Awe is the Antidote to Everyday Stress
By Polly Campbell
The customer service reps at the print shop couldn’t find the poster I’d ordered. The check wasn’t in the mail, the kid is complaining of a cold, and the elderly cat seems lethargic today. Just as I’m deciding whether to call the vet, a client e-mails asking for a last-minute marketing piece and bam, in just a few minutes time, the morning calm dissolves into overwhelm.
You know what I’m talking about, right? We’ve all had days like this where nothing is really wrong, but nothing is going right either. Days where everything feels hard and fast. Too much to do, too little time and we are getting pushback on just about everything.
But we don’t have to let a few stressful moments, boil into a bad day. Instead, we can deliberately seek out awe and appreciation and feel better.
Easing Everyday Stress
Life is FULL of everyday stressors. That’s not going to change, but we can change how we respond to them so that within the troubling times and stressful moments we can also see the goodness that lingers there.
Just as your view of a movie changes depending on which seat you are sitting in – imagine watching a 3D film from the front row and then off to the side in the back — your experience of life changes depending on how you view it.
When you seek out the awe that is also present in every moment, you are choosing to take an elevated broader view of your circumstances. This helps you to notice the amazing things that exist right in the middle of the ick, and your body responds by easing the stress response, lowering your heart rate and blood pressure, elevating your mood and prompting connection and generosity, making everything easier to deal with.
Researchers including Dacher Keltner and Jonathan Haidt say awe stirs a reverence or admiration that can change how we think about ourselves and the world.
In other words, when you notice the awesome that is already exists, it changes how you look at everything else. It makes the impossible seem possible. This moment more amazing than the last. And life feels easier.
Awe is an automatic stress diffuser because it puts us in touch with what is working in our lives, rather than what isn’t. It connects us to the goodness in every moment.
Finding Awe in the Middle of the Upset:
Sounds good, right? But how do we find awe in the urban jungle or the child’s meltdown or the frustrating board meeting. There are plenty of ways to do it, but this 30-second practice can help:
1. Move to a new location. If you are in front of the screen, get up. Move away from the television and look out a window, or walk down the hall, or simply turn around in your chair.
2. Take in the scene using all of your senses. Since awe is all around us we simply need to tune into it and see it, so use all of your senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, hearing to notice what is going on right now in your environment.
3. Hone in on one sense and go deeper. Get curious. Look at the familiar a new way. That wonderful smell coming from the kitchen? What is that? How amazing is it that the body can sense that aroma in a way that we can enjoy? Or that tree out your window. What’s different about it today? How long has it been growing? Wow, despite all the storms and changes and environmental uncertainties it is still there. Awesome. Or, put your hand over your heart, and marvel at it beating. Just like that. Without your conscious thought. Sustaining you and this body and brain…oh my…your marvelous brain. Awesome.
4. Appreciate it. Now, take in the awesome. Hold it. Feel the good feelings wash over you. The amazement and wonder and curiosity and allow yourself to smile if you feel like it or cry if you are touched, but let it into your body. Savor it. Psychologists including Fred Bryant of Loyola University say that savoring actually rewires the brain, over time, to become more prone to the positive.
5. Get back to work. Now go back to whatever you were doing, if necessary, but take the elevated feelings with you. Draw from them. This whole practice can take less than a minute, but it will
shift your mood for the entire day.
Awe and appreciation are the antidotes to the stress and upset that can ruin your day.
Polly Campbell is a motivational speaker and the author of three books How to Live an Awesome Life’: How to Live Well, Do Good, Be Happy; Imperfect Spirituality: Extraordinary Enlightenment for Ordinary People; and How to Reach Enlightenment.
Her work appears in blogs and magazines and at www.imperfectspirituality.com