7 Ways to Feel Inspired and Find Moments of Awe in Everyday Life8 min read

Most of us are busy chasing a ‘golden’ balance in life that we think will bring us some kind of base level of happiness. We want a great social and professional life AND plenty of time to travel the world. But will we ever get there without taking some time to contemplate the process? The fact is that it’s often impossible to keep everything going at the same time. Sure, life is going to give you lemons, but it’s also going to throw you plenty of mouldy potatoes. Unfortunately, we’ll just have to deal with that. And if we’re ever going to find a ‘base level’ for happiness (if it exists at all), I think we will have to find it in everyday life itself, by maintaining realistic habits. That’s how I’ve found a few ways to feel constantly inspired and find moments of awe in everyday life.

Ways to feel inspired: make time for the sunrise or sunset on a weekly basis, preferably on the beach or by a lake
A sunset on Ameland Island in Friesland

Why are Feelings of Awe So Important?

But why are feelings of awe so important for everyday life and why should we even want to find ways to feel inspired? Researchers have recently provided some answers. It turns out that feelings of awe are incredibly beneficial to both our mental and physical health, particularly as a natural method of relieving stress1. And evidently, whatever image of a perfect lifestyle you’ve got in mind, it won’t mean a thing if your health is on the line.

A feeling of awe is similar to a state of feeling overwhelmed, but in an inspiring sense rather than a saddening one. It’s a feeling of wonder, sometimes mixed with a little bit of fear. Essentially, it’s about feeling humbled by the vastness and the raw beauty of everything that surrounds us. It happens when you recognise that you yourself only have a tiny, yet valuable role to play within the world. Yet, you are also able to experience everything consciously.

7 Ways to Feel Inspired in Everyday Life

After some thought, I realised I have three main ways of integrating moments of awe and wonder into my everyday life too. I’m sure you have ways to do so as well, so I’d love to hear those too. First of all, I make sure I spend enough time in nature or green spaces (1). In addition to that, I try to incorporate regular moments of ‘re-calibration’ (2) and try to find everyday moments to appreciate life as though everything were a form of art (3). Now, I understand that all may sound hyper-spiritual or a bit abstract, especially the latter two. Don’t worry, however, I’ll explain. I find that these simple habits are actually very easy to incorporate on a weekly basis. I’ll share a few helpful exercises that you can adopt right away.

A view of the Geul river valley in Limburg, the Netherlands
A view of the Geul river valley in Limburg

Spend Enough Time in Nature

One of the most straight-forward ways to feel inspired and experience moments of awe is to venture out into nature. You might immediately think if climbing a treacherous mountain or diving into a mirror-like lake, but you don’t always need to go that far. You can seek nature and find moments of beauty in everyday life as well.

1. Make Time for the Sunrise or Sunset

When you’re just working every day and repeating the motions, it can be easy to fall into the stifling boredom of an everyday routine. But pulling yourself away from the hamster wheel doesn’t have to be hard. Even just making some time for the sunrise or sunset can add one or two hours of outdoor appreciation into your schedule. That either means getting up early for the first few rays or freeing up some hours in your evening to see the sunset can make a big difference. It may seem too easy to be true, but just this simple exercise of taking one or two hours out of your day to align with a natural rhythm can make you feel ten times better. This is especially true if you’re working a desk job in an office full of artificial lighting.

2. Go on a forest walk to see the sunlight filtering through the leaves

Another great way to boost your health is to start planning a weekly escape to a nearby forest. Green spaces that supply fresh air, or even just pictures of nature, have been linked to healthier brains. You may have intuitively known about this already. There’s even a name for the art of ‘forest bathing’ in Japanese philosophy: ‘shinrin yoku‘. It’s a form of nature therapy that prescribes peaceful walks in parks and forests. Appreciate the smell of pine trees, try to notice the dancing sunlight filtering through the leaves and enjoy the lack of advertisements, cars, and crowds of people. For a few minutes, it’s just you and the trees.

3. Appreciate the season and find parallels within yourself

I used to only love spring and summer and completely detest the autumn and winter seasons. Whenever the leaves would start falling off the trees, I would get upset. But just like the seasons, life has a cyclical nature. What comes up must come down and for growth some habits must die. Take a moment to appreciate whatever season you’re in right now. Go outdoors and look around and see how everything is always changing around you. In what ways does your phase in life and state of mind relate to the current season. Find beauty in parallels and take a moment to contemplate in what areas in life it might be time regrowth, hibernation or letting go.

Fiery red autumn leaves on a historic stone wall
Autumn leaves on a historic stone wall in Limburg

Regular Moments for Re-calibration

You don’t necessarily have to learn how to meditate, but every human needs moments to re-calibrate with themselves and their body. You can’t just eat, sleep, work and repeat without taking a step back. That almost always takes a toll. So, how do you find those moments?

4. Switch everything off and enjoy a moment of silence or stillness

You could turn this in a habit of meditation, but you certainly don’t have to. Take a moment to back away from your laptop and phone and from everyone else. You don’t need to schedule these, you can usually feel whenever you’ve had enough. Just take a moment for yourself in a quiet and disconnected place.

Feel how your lungs fill up with air as you breathe in, look up at the sky to see the clouds moving by or the stars twinkling in the far, far distance. Or close your eyes and feel your heart beating and pumping blood around your entire body, helping you stay alive. Even if you start small, somewhere inside yourself, you can find a feeling of awe when you think about how everything connects and works together. The air you breathe is (partially) supplied by the trees, to name an obvious example.

Escapes into nature are one way to feel inspired: clouds reflect in the North Sea at Noordwijk Beach
Clouds reflect in the North Sea at Noordwijk Beach

5 Go on a mini retreat to disconnect and enjoy a different soundscape

Sound is another important factor that we usually don’t take into account when we think of our mental state. Interestingly, the right kinds of sounds can instantly de-stress and calm you down. If you live on a busy street, you could try closing all your windows or going on a little excursion to quieter place out of town. Try to find places with beautiful soundscapes or putting on ambient sounds, which you can easily find on YouTube. Listen to (an audio track of) songbirds, the sound of the ocean, or falling raindrops on a umbrella or the forest canopy.

Whatever you do, just take a moment to be with yourself and re-calibrate. Have you been feeling tension anywhere in your body? Do you feel stressed or relieved? Schedule some time to hear yourself out. And if you do feel like simple meditations might be a good strategy for you, I recommend using the Smiling Mind app once in a while.

Start Seeing Everything as Art

This might sound a little bit strange, but trust me and give it a try: start seeing everything around you as a potential work of art. One easy way to feel inspired is to let your imagination run wild and see the world a little bit differently. Here are a few examples of practical exercises:

A little girl in a yellow dress chases soap bubbles in Amsterdam
A little girl in a yellow dress chases soap bubbles in Amsterdam

6. Play pretend: imagine paintings, photos and movie scenes

Look at the scenes of everyday life around you like they were part of a painting, depicting the hustle and bustle. Go people-watching and imagine every person is a character in a movie; what kind of movie would it be? If you see an abandoned, but beautiful flower lying on the ground, try looking at it as though it was put there for you to take a photo. Give that photo a title. What does this mundane scene turn into: a story about an old man buying a bouquet for his wife, or is the rose a secret symbol or message left for you to see by a foreign spy?

There are so many ways to turn life into art and I really enjoy seeing the magic of everyday life by switching on that imaginative ‘filter’ in my mind. Make up stories, let your imagination run wild and see all of the limitless, potential paths your mind can wonder. It fills you with awe while feeding your creativity.

7. Remix existing art with collages or blackout poems

If you’re not necessarily the most creative person by nature, don’t worry. There are plenty of other ways to let yourself be inspired by others and ‘remix’ existing art. What I mean is taking something you like, a book, magazine, photo, anything and creating something new as a response. You can do this by making little blackout poems by crossing out words in a paper or book. This way, you’ll create a completely different story while using the same text as source material.

This method can be applied in countless other ways. You can make a collage from inspirational pictures you find in magazines or even make one digitally on your phone. Put your collage on your wall or turn your digital artwork into your new phone background. Another idea is writing a short story based on a book or TV series you really loved, like a mini spin-off just for yourself (which technically qualifies as fanfiction, I suppose). The possibilities are endless.

Practice creativity by creating blackout poems like this (an illustrated book with purple markings)

A Formula for a Perfect Lifestyle?

Whenever I talk to friends about finding the right balance, we don’t really talk about ways to feel inspired. We just tend to describe our perfect lifestyle as a list of ingredients: a great job that makes you feel fulfilled and financially secure, healthy relationships with friends and family, free time to practice your hobbies, and enough opportunities to travel and explore. Of course, these are all valid and important factors to consider. But what I’ve found actually helps for me is to stop looking at my lifestyle as a formula of variables that need to be filled in.

The pros and cons of feeling overwhelmed

When it comes down to it, we often compare ourselves to others and chase unrealistic figures and status symbols in life to feel successful. Naturally, this can make us feel incredibly overwhelmed. But clearly, feeling overwhelmed is not necessarily the problem, it just needs to be the right timing. I think we need to practice our own preferred ways to feel inspired and purposefully look for that feeling (instead of letting it dominate our thoughts when we want to push it away).

Instead of trying to juggle all our responsibilities and goals in life and feeling incapable, we need to take a little bit of distance and look at all the possibilities. And when we find ways to feel inspired and make space in our mind for possibilities, it’ll be easier to find solutions as well.

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