11 Benefits of Experiencing Awe in Childhood
The benefits of unlocking awe.
Posted March 18, 2023 | Reviewed by Abigail Fagan
- Awe is a complex emotion that plays a significant role in human experience and evolution.
- Children who experience awe-inspiring moments can reap lasting positive effects on their development, well-being, and overall quality of life.
- Awe can stimulate creativity, enhance emotional well-being, and foster a sense of humility and altruism in children.
"Wonder is the beginning of wisdom." —Socrates
Childhood is a magical time filled with new experiences, vivid imaginings, and a sense of wonder that seems to fade as we grow older. One powerful emotion encapsulating childhood's essence is awe—that feeling of amazement, reverence, and wonder in the face of something larger or more powerful than ourselves. The experience of awe can profoundly impact a child's development and well-being, and it is essential to recognize and foster this emotion in children's lives.
What is awe?
Awe, a complex emotion often characterized by a sense of wonder, plays a significant role in human experience and evolution. Dr. Dachner Keltner suggests that awe arises from vast stimuli, transcending our understanding of the world, and can be prompted by nature, art, and impressive individual feats. From an evolutionary perspective, awe fosters collaboration and concern for others, encouraging communal identity and prosocial behavior crucial for human survival. On an individual level, awe can stimulate creativity, curiosity, and risk-taking by unchaining our perception from its limited bandwidth. It may also boost physical health by reducing inflammatory cytokines. Virtual reality has been shown to induce awe, potentially enhancing components of creativity. At the same time, neuroscience reveals that awe suppresses the prefrontal cortex and increases activity in the default mode network, which is associated with creative thinking and ideation.
Research suggests that children who experience awe-inspiring moments can reap lasting positive effects on their development, well-being, and overall quality of life. This post outlines 11 scientifically-backed benefits of awe and shows how they can improve children's overall health and happiness.
1. Enhanced Curiosity and Learning
Awe-inducing experiences in childhood promote curiosity, which in turn, encourages learning and knowledge acquisition. Children exposed to awe-inspiring environments display a greater interest in exploring their surroundings and understanding the world. As a result, they are more likely to ask questions, seek out information, and engage in activities that broaden their understanding.
2. Improved Emotional Well-Being
Experiencing awe contributes to a child's emotional well-being, increasing positive emotions and reducing negative ones. This boost in happiness and contentment fosters a healthier, more resilient mindset. Experiencing awe can help children regulate their emotions, promoting positive feelings such as happiness and gratitude. These positive emotions contribute to a more balanced emotional state, allowing children to better cope with stress and adversity.
3. Greater Appreciation for Nature
Children who encounter awe in natural settings develop a deeper connection with and appreciation for nature. This connection encourages environmentally responsible behavior and a lifelong love for the outdoors. By fostering a strong bond with nature, children are more likely to become advocates for conservation and sustainability in their adulthood. This greater appreciation for nature contributes to a more holistic sense of well-being, enhancing children's quality of life.
Awe experiences can facilitate stronger social bonds, often involving shared moments of wonder. These shared experiences can increase children's empathy, compassion, and cooperation. In addition, awe-induced feelings of humility and interconnectedness can help children develop a greater appreciation for the roles and contributions of others, promoting a more inclusive and supportive social environment. Engaging in activities that inspire awe together can foster a sense of belonging and create lasting memories, ultimately strengthening friendships and the sense of community.
Awe can alter a child's perception of time, making it feel more expansive. This shift in perception can help children develop patience, reduce impulsivity, and improve decision-making skills. By experiencing the sensation of time slowing down during awe-inspiring moments, children are encouraged to savor the present, cultivate mindfulness, and approach situations with greater thoughtfulness. This heightened awareness can lead to better emotional regulation, more considered choices, and a more balanced and fulfilling life experience.
6. Increased Altruism and Prosocial Behavior
Experiencing awe can foster altruism and prosocial behavior. Awe-inspiring moments may help children feel more connected to others, motivating them to act in ways that benefit their community or environment. This sense of interconnectedness nurtures a strong foundation for empathy, compassion, and understanding, further supporting healthy relationships and a positive social environment. As children grow, these prosocial behaviors and values can carry into adulthood, shaping them into caring, responsible, and engaged members of society who contribute to the well-being of others and the world around them.
Awe can stimulate creativity by broadening thinking and encouraging novel ideas. This cognitive flexibility can lead to innovative problem-solving and imaginative play. As children immerse themselves in awe-inspiring experiences, they become more open to exploring new perspectives and embracing unconventional approaches. The resulting boost in creative thinking enriches their learning experiences and equips them with the ability to adapt to various challenges throughout their lives. Furthermore, fostering creativity in children can contribute to their self-expression, personal growth, and overall happiness as they discover the joy of transforming their ideas into reality.
8. Promotion of Healthy Humility
Encounters with awe can instill a sense of humility, helping individuals develop a healthy understanding of their place in the world. This perspective can foster gratitude, empathy, and a greater appreciation for life's experiences. By cultivating humility, children are more likely to acknowledge the strengths and contributions of others, which promotes cooperation and harmonious social interactions. Furthermore, a humble mindset can lead to a lifelong commitment to personal growth and self-improvement as children become more open to learning from their experiences, accepting feedback, and embracing change.
Awe can diminish a child's focus on material possessions, encouraging a shift toward more meaningful pursuits. This shift can lead to greater life satisfaction and stronger interpersonal relationships. As children experience awe and wonder, they may develop an appreciation for non-material aspects, such as family, friendships, learning, and personal growth. This focus on deeper values can help them develop a more balanced outlook on life, cultivating resilience, contentment, and a sense of purpose beyond pursuing material possessions.
10. Boosted Resilience and Coping Skills
Experiencing awe can help children develop resilience and coping skills by exposing them to challenging and novel situations. These experiences encourage adaptability and resourcefulness, preparing them to face life's obstacles. As children learn to embrace and overcome the unfamiliar or intimidating aspects of awe-inspiring experiences, they build confidence in their abilities to handle adversity. This increased resilience empowers them to navigate difficult circumstances and bounce back from setbacks.
Research on the positive effects of awe on parent-child relationships highlights the potential for shared awe-inspiring experiences to strengthen family bonds and enhance communication. Awe experiences promote prosocial behavior and foster feelings of connectedness with others. Parents and children who engage in awe-evoking activities together, such as spending time in nature or attending cultural events, may develop a stronger emotional connection and a better understanding of one another. By sharing moments of wonder, parents, and children can create lasting memories and cultivate a more profound appreciation for their relationship. Furthermore, the increased empathy and compassion from awe experiences can promote more supportive and harmonious interactions within the family, ultimately contributing to healthier and more resilient parent-child relationships.
Unlocking the Magic
The benefits of awe in childhood are numerous, ranging from emotional well-being to creativity. Encouraging children to seek out and engage with awe-inspiring experiences can have a lasting, positive impact on their lives. By immersing themselves in a world filled with wonder, children can cultivate a rich inner landscape that enhances their ability to appreciate life's complexities and embrace the unknown with courage and curiosity.
As children encounter awe-inspiring moments, they learn to approach challenges with an open mind and a willingness to explore life's vast possibilities. This resilience and adaptability prepares them to navigate life's inevitable ups and downs and promotes a sense of fulfillment and contentment rooted in a deep appreciation for the world around them.
In essence, nurturing a sense of awe in children is akin to planting a seed that will grow into a magnificent tree—a tree that will not only bear the fruits of wisdom, creativity, and empathy but also provide a canopy of comfort and support, allowing them to weather the storms of life. Thus, when we expose our children to awe, we don't just show them the magic of the world; we give them the key to unlocking the magic within themselves!