get greater fulfillment from your work day

If you work at a desk then you know that sitting all day staring at our screens and jumping from one task to the next can take a toll on our physical and mental health. Physicians recommend we pay attention to our posture and take breaks to stretch our legs, but there is also another incredible way to balance our workday and reduce stress — awe.

Have you ever been so overwhelmed by something you saw or experienced that you felt immense joy, wonder, and gratitude all at once? Maybe you got goosebumps on your arms, felt tingling up and down your back, or tears flooded your eyes? That is awe. It is an emotion that has a powerful effect on our body and mind, and it can be so moving that we can’t exactly explain it.

Awe is when we experience something greater than ourselves that challenges or alters our understanding of the world around us. It can be triggered by different things for different people: profound beauty; spending time in nature; feeling connected to others; remarkable human accomplishments; scientific discoveries; or great works of architecture, art, and music. Spotting a vivid rainbow, watching an unbelievable magic show, or listening to an impressive concerto can bring us feelings of awe.

Why is it important to take awe breaks throughout our workday? Well, experiencing awe has been scientifically proven to give us numerous benefits, such as stimulating curiosity and creativity, reducing stress and anxiety, improving our interpersonal relationships, making us feel grateful, and helping us discover our purpose in life—all vital ingredients for a successful career!

Here are a few fun, simple ways to add awe to your workday

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1. Decorate Your Workspace With Nature Imagery

You don’t even have to leave your chair to experience a burst of awe when you look up from your computer throughout the day. Just gazing at pictures of gorgeous nature scenes like beaches, forests, or snow-topped mountains can spark a sense of tranquility and wonder. Consider hanging some nature photography or paintings in your office or keeping several  inspiring nature photography books like Ansel Adams’ collections to refer to when you need to recharge.

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2. Listen To Inspiring Music

When it comes to music, your options are endless depending on your own preferences. Some people are fascinated by jazz while others love the symphony. Maybe it’s the words of your favorite song or soundtrack from an inspiring movie or musical that moves you. Listening to nature sounds can also help people relax and improve mood. One study found that those who listened to ocean waves had considerably lower muscle tension, heart rates, and stress. Decide which sounds bring you the most joy and be sure to intersperse them throughout your workday.

3. Watch Awe-Filled Videos

Have you ever been to a doctor’s office that has a video of nature scenes playing in the waiting room? Catching a glimpse of nature’s beauty can bring a healthy distraction to an otherwise nerve-wracking situation. You can also incorporate this tactic into your office by either having nature videos playing on a separate screen throughout the day or by taking a video break to watch something that calms and inspires you, such as a rushing stream flowing over rocks, wildlife in their natural habitats, or sunrises and sunsets. There are also videos showing the expansive universe that will surely make your jaw drop.

4. Recharge With Some Awe Reading

Another simple way to add some awe to your workday is to stop working for a few minutes and read a piece of literature, poetry, or an article that inspires you. Maybe you love reading biographies of gutsy women; commit to reading a chapter each day or week as an awe break. If you love descriptive poetry about the beauty of nature, then even reading one poem as a quick awe break can help you feel happier during your workday. Some other ideas include reading about scientific discoveries, historical events, world leaders, or incredible places you would like to visit.

5. Take A Quick Field Trip

You are probably wondering—how am I going to have time for a field trip? Taking time away from the intensity of work can help you come back inspired and ready to work harder than ever. Carve out some time in your calendar to get away to places that fill you with a sense of awe. You can do this alone or with colleagues, friends, or a loved one. Some ideas include art galleries, science museums, botanical gardens, aquariums, historical monuments, or cathedrals. Depending on where you work, maybe you can catch a concert on your lunch break or head over to the beach or lake to enjoy the sights and sounds of the water. Even a quick walk around the neighborhood or office park can lead to some awe moments. Enjoy!      

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Wondering if your life needs more awe? Check out this awesome quiz from the Greater Good Science Center.

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