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Please Take an Awe Break This Week!

Written by MJ Ryan, SheEO Development Guide

As you read this, it is the eve of the U.S. Presidential election. Who will win? What will happen in the Senate and the House? To the country? To the world? To the ones I love so much? Will the forces of hatred, of climate- and Covid-denying remain in power and push us further into anti-women, racial and LBGTQ hatred, chaos and authoritarianism?

And what about the pandemic? How long will we have to stay away from one another?

And what effects will that have on all that we hold dear?

We don’t know.

I have no idea how you’re feeling, but I’m afraid. In the past, I would have stayed in this state of fear for days, weeks, perhaps months, in the mistaken belief that somehow being afraid would protect me from harm. That, I’ve learned, is my amygdala talking, the trigger of the fight-or-flight response.

Focus on the threat, it’s telling me, so it doesn’t creep up and kill you. A
smart approach when an actual tiger is stalking you. Not so healthy, it turns out, for the social and emotional threats we’re experiencing. Yes, we have to be aware and to take the actions we can. I’ve done that—I’ve voted, given more money to causes and candidates than ever before, written postcards to voters till my hand cramped, signed every petition on the planet. I wear a
mask outside and mostly stay home.

Now it’s time for something different—“taking in the good,” as Rick Hanson calls it. It’s the practice of pausing and really noticing for at least 20 seconds what is beautiful, whole, nourishing in your life and in the world. Let those good things fill your body with positive sensations and emotions. Imagine planting the moment in your brain or heart. When we do this, not only do we feel better in the moment, but we actually wire positive neural structures that give us the compassion, energy and optimism to deal more effectively with life’s challenges.

Research has shown that taking in the good not only helps us in the moment, but that the more that we do it, we:

• Develop a generally positive internal emotional landscape
• Create the foundation of self soothing, emotional regulation and resilience
• Internalize positive resources
• Generate a pathway to healing from trauma

I was reminded of this today, just when I needed it, by two good things. First Marc Lesser’s newest newsletter that focuses on a study from UC San Francisco and The Global Brain Health Institute which suggests that simply taking a 15-minute weekly “awe walk” where you focus on your surroundings instead of yourself can lead to greater well-being. I had discovered the same thing when studying gratitude. When you take time to really notice and appreciate the world around you, your heart swells in awe of the beauty of life, especially the natural world. It’s a great form of taking in the good.

You don’t even have to take a walk to take an awe break. You can look out the window or sit in a park. If you need more help discovering this powerful positive emotion, listen to Rob Legoto’s, the creator of the effects for Apollo 13, TED talk The Art of Creating Awe.

Or just look at this photo that SheEO Activator Vanessa Reid posted on her Facebook page:

It’s a photo taken by Joe Neely of bees sleeping cuddled up together in a Globe Mallow in the Arizona desert. You can see more of Neely’s work on his websiteFacebook, or Instagram. I don’t know about you, but I feel better already.

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