Pressing Pause Podcast episode 48 Replace worry with wonder
Welcome to Pressing Pause, the podcast for overthinkers.
I’m Gabrielle Treanor and I’m here to share with you ideas, inspiration and actions to empower you to spend less time overthinking and worrying and more time enjoying your life.
Welcome to episode 48 and happy International Day of Happiness to you. Which feels extra appropriate for the topic of this week’s episode.
As this is the podcast for overthinkers I naturally talk a lot about what we can do to worry less, reduce our overthinking and spend less time stuck in our heads ruminating and what if-ing. And that’s really important because while we’re going over and over thoughts and trying to keep a grip on everything there’s not much space in our brains for anything else. It’s by calming the thought whirlwind and easing the stress that we can really pay attention to what’s going on around us, and notice the opportunities for joy, amazement and inspiration all around us.
So this is what I want to focus on today in this episode. Specifically how we can tap into the sense of awe and wonder that we felt so often as children but which can get lost when we’re caught up in responsibilities and worries of grown-up life.
Feeling a sense of wonder isn’t the same as feeling joy or happiness or contentment, it’s on a different level. We often experience awe when we’re in nature, and music, art, and religion can provoke feelings of wonder too. We may find it hard to put our finger on a clear definition of awe but we know it when we feel it. We feel humble and small in the grand scheme of life. There’s a feeling that we’re not at the centre of the universe and research shows that this encourages us to focus less on ourselves and this makes us more altruistic. It seems that people who feel awe are more likely to feel they’re part of a bigger picture and want to contribute more to society through volunteering, donating to charity or getting involved in their local community.
We experienced awe more frequently when we were children because so much was new to us, we were learning about the world every day. When we grow up we can lose that sense of wonder but we can create opportunities to spark feelings of awe instead. A great way to do this is by taking an awe walk.
Now I talked about taking a mindful walk in episode 8 but this is different. With an awe walk you’re not just being mindful of your surroundings you’re opening up to the wonder of the world around you. Here are a few suggestions for where and how you can take an awe walk and feel a sense of wonder in a natural setting and also in an urban area.
We’ll look at going for an awe walk in nature first.
So, you can take a walk through a forest or wooded area. The difference in scale between the tall, towering trees that have been standing for years and the teeny tiny wildflowers growing on the forest floor makes this an ideal setting for awe. Think about how old the trees could be and what the area looked like when they were saplings. Look up at the canopy and the sky beyond. Look closely at the detail of lichen and insects living on the tree bark. Crouch down to examine the variety of plants, flowers and creatures making their home at ground level.
Climb up a hill or even a mountain, go as high as you can to get as far-reaching views as possible. Consider how the mountain was formed and how long it’s been standing in comparison to human history. Look up at the vast sky and look in all directions for what you can see from this vantage point. Imagine you’re up in the sky looking down, consider your size in comparison to the mountain. How many people have walked on that ground for hundreds, even thousands of years?
Walk along a river, watch the flow of the water, its speed, the strength of its current. Peer into the water to see what lives beneath the surface. Look at the banks of the river, who or what lives there? Think about how long the river has been flowing along this route, what effect the powerful water has had on the banks and riverbed. If there’s a waterfall, even better, listen to the sound of the water, watch how the river falls and flows and blends back into the river.
The coast or a beach is a great place to tap into that sense of wonder, you’re on the very edge of land! Look out at the sea or ocean, where the water meets the sky. Watch the movement of the waves, consider how the tide moves in and out every day, without failure or interference. Imagine how far it is to land on the other side of the water.
And if possible go into a rural area on a clear night and look up at the sky. It will seem like more and more stars are coming out as your eyes adjust to be able to see them. Perhaps you’ll recognise constellations or identify planets or satellites. In every square inch of sky above you there are billions of stars. The ones that you can see in our galaxy, the Milky Way, could be billions of years old. When you look at the night sky you’re looking back in time because the light you see left its source possibly thousands of years ago. What you can see may not even exist any more because of the time it’s taken for the light to travel to your eyes. Isn’t that amazing?! I think the night sky could be our greatest source of awe and wonder.
Now, what if you live in a city or a built-up area and climbing a mountain or sitting in a field in the pitch black isn’t practical for you? There are still plenty of ways you can reignite your sense of wonder in an urban area.
For a start you can go for a wander, spelt with an a not an o, without any clear route or plan in mind. Just see where it takes you, without putting yourself in danger, of course. You may discover streets, buildings, monuments or parks you didn’t know existed simply because you went off for a wonder wander.
In the heart of a city where modern skyscrapers, centuries-old houses and blocks of flats are all jostling for space with parks and market stalls, with roads, pavements, cars, people and street furniture cutting a path through it all, this manmade environment can be awe-inspiring when you stop to think about it. In an old city consider how the architecture styles have evolved over the years and where buildings have been slotted into any available space. The way the streets have been used and travelled upon by foot, cart and horse, and the first motor car. In a new city think about how much planning went into the layout of the office and retail buildings, the communal spaces and homes. How the town planners sought to learn from and improve upon older cities’ blueprints.
Find an historic building or monument. Whether it’s an art gallery or a war memorial, St Paul’s Cathedral or the Coliseum, a structure with history and a story to tell can be an incredible source of awe. Think about the people who designed and built it, what’s taken place through the years in and around it, what it symbolises and what it stands for.
And of course people can be utterly awe-inspiring themselves. From a stadium or arena packed with fans singing as one to a band’s song or cheering on their sports team, to an athlete demonstrating their incredible commitment, skill, strength and endurance. From those who became world famous for stepping up to lead, bring about change and inspire, to the unsung, ordinary heroes being awesome, in the true meaning of the word, as they go about their everyday lives.
There is awe and wonder to be found all around us, if we just open up to it. Where can you see and feel it today?
And we’ll be looking more at awe and wonder in my new online course Worry Less for Life – how to calm your mind, build resilience and enjoy life more. It starts in less than two weeks and the doors will be closing on Friday 29 March. There is a new payment plan available to you plus all the info on what you’ll learn and explore, and how it will make a difference to not only you but your family and everyone around you, now and in the future. Go to worrylessforlife.com for all the info and you can always email me with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org
You’ll find the show notes for this episode 48 at gabrielletreanor.com/podcast and all the other episodes are there too.
Thanks for listening, until next time, lovely people.