You just crossed the finish line of a half-marathon. You are so proud but also sort of in disbelief. You’re filled with an almost indescribable wonder and respect for your body. Simply, you’re in awe of yourself.
The seemingly elusive, only-know-it-when-you-feel-it emotion can reduce inflammation, calm the nervous system, decrease stress, and quell physical pain, says Dacher Keltner, PhD, a social-personality psychology professor at the University of California at Berkeley and author of Awe: The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How It Can Transform Your Life. Breathtaking landscapes are common awe inducers, but that’s not the only way to tap into it.
Whether you participate in a running group, take a yoga class, or play a game of pickup basketball, these seemingly ordinary activities can inspire awe through what Keltner calls “collective effervescence.” You feel synced up with others because you’re moving together with a shared focus and goal.
But short of bottling awe, how might you experience it through something you’re in touch with every day—i.e., your body?
“Recognize the amazing ability of each part,” says Keltner. Think, for example, about everything your hands do, from lifting heavy weights to embracing loved ones.
Another way to spark it? “Contextualize your physical capabilities,” says Keltner. Maybe you crushed that half-marathon, yet two years ago, you couldn’t run more than a mile. Perhaps you’re recovering from shoulder surgery and working back to a pre-injury lifting PR.
“Reflect on the remarkable parts of your body that help you get that work done,” says Keltner. “Then think about the ways in which the health improvements are part of your larger story.”
Essentially, awe occurs when we link actions or thoughts to broader systems, when we feel a part of something bigger than ourselves. These eight women will inspire you to be awestruck by your own self—and make chasing that feeling a forever priority.
Lindsay Geller is the Lifestyle Director at Women’s Health, where she oversees the Life, Sex & Love, and Relationships sections on WomensHealthMag.com and the Mind section of Women's Health magazine. When she's not writing or editing articles about the latest dating trends and pop culture phenomenons, she's usually watching reality TV or playing with her dog, Lucille (Go Fetch That) Ball.