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How a Sense of ‘Awe’ Can Help You Stay Positive

When connecting to something bigger than yourself, hope and peace can follow.

Feelings of awe
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

“I lift up mine eyes unto the hills,” says the lovely language of Psalm 121, “from whence cometh my help.” 

My mind rested on this famous verse recently when I was reflecting on the feeling of awe, that sensation we get when we are in the presence of something ineffably bigger than ourselves. There are (at least) three ways to connect with this feeling during the current stressful and anxious reality of the coronavirus pandemic. Each, for me, comes back to this verse.

1)  Natural Awe

Sometimes, the “hills” in Psalm 121 are translated as “mountains,” but whatever their physical form, the verse invites us to stop and notice the grandeur of nature. Simply being in a natural space—from a vast starry night sky to a trickling creek, a majestic ocean, thick forest or towering mountain peak—is an instant moment-catcher. Even if your encounter with nature is as close to home as a tomato ripening on your backyard vine, you can marvel and find solace in nature’s enduring presence. Draw on that positive perspective the next time you need to see yourself as part of a larger whole. 

2)  Spiritual Awe

Is there any more elegant image to describe prayer than “I lift up mine eyes?” With just that simple gesture, you are immediately brought into connection with whatever form of spirituality is meaningful to you. Whether you are part of a traditional faith community or have a personal sense of spirituality, raising your gaze can cue you to feel held in an awe-inspiring realm. Even when unseen, that place is deeply present, alive and available as a source of support and, as the psalmist writes, “help.”

3)  Self-Awe

Who raises their eyes? Who has faith in the help that resides in the hills? Why, you do! Awe, by definition, is an understanding of yourself within a larger context. But you can also marvel at the small and grand ways in which you show up for yourself. Especially during the pandemic, have you stayed calm in a stressful moment? Encouraged a friend? Set a healthy boundary? Let go of self-sabotaging expectations? Learned a new skill? Developed an improved sleep, nutrition or fitness routine? Practiced self-compassion? Don’t miss the opportunity to see yourself as an ever-evolving, growing and authentically positive presence in this world.

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