OPINION

Mind Matters | Experiences of wonder improve our health

When I first saw the Grand Canyon in northern Arizona, I experienced a feeling of wonder. I felt stunned, amazed.

Babies must often experience a feeling of wonder, for instance when a parent first air-dances with them. Picture the big eyes of a baby seeing a cat for the first time.

Moving into childhood, we have other experiences that create in us a sense of wonder.

Whistling the first time must seem a wonderful accomplishment. I still remember going to kindergarten and sitting on a thick mat. That mat was unlike anything I had ever touched or even imagined. I remember the first time I ever drove a car - I was 11 and I drove a stick shift car down a country road with no one else inside. Wow!

By adolescence, feelings of wonder become less common. Remember your first romantic kiss? I hope it was wonderful.

As adults, we can go long periods of time without experiencing wonder, unless we travel or read or otherwise expose ourselves to new ideas and places.

I still remember the wonder I experienced when I first saw clouds from above.

Seeing an ocean for the first time, with water that goes on and on, can create feelings of wonder. One day when I lived in Florida I saw the setting sun make unusual looking clouds into raspberry cotton puffs.

Sometimes we accomplish something amazing and feel a sense of wonder.

I never climbed Everest, but I had a wonderful experience once when I was a law student.

I was playing in a pickup game of basketball, I grabbed a sharp pass near the basket and took a no-look shot with my back to the basket. Seeing the ball swish through the net gave me a feeling of wonder.

I recently experienced feelings of wonder while looking at beautiful images of nebulas light years away.

I thought about the hundreds of billions of galaxies in the universe and the hundreds of billions of stars and planets in each one. I felt part of something astounding.

Is it good for us to experience wonder? You bet. It raises our mood and opens us up to new ways of thinking.

Wonderful experiences expand us psychologically. Experiences of wonder can lead to improved physical and mental health.

What leads you to experience wonder? Seeing the birth of child? Listening to the greatest music ever written?

John Malouff is an Associate Professor at the School of Behavioural, Cognitive and Social Sciences, University of New England.