Can Simple Moments Be Transformative?

Can Simple Moments Be Transformative?

Can Simple Moments Be Transformative?
Everyday Wonder as a Pathway to Greater Wellbeing.

Can simple moments be transformative? Many of us know the word awe, but aren’t exactly sure what it means.

Awe is about relating to experiences that are somehow larger than ourselves. Awe can be experienced in simple moments of everyday life, such as noticing beauty in cloud formations in the sky. We may experience awe when we listen to the melodic tones of a violin, a singer’s harmonious voice, or ourselves chanting uplifting words or melodies. Awe may be awakened in the presence of another person as we discuss a compelling or destabilizing topic. We may experience awe in a moment of tenderness with someone or something we love or admire. Sometimes awe is inspired as we notice a person’s kindness, gentleness, or generosity.

A few years ago, my friend and I were driving home from her family reunion in another state when we were confronted by an unwelcome, potentially dangerous thunderstorm. As the horizon began to clear, we looked up to see the largest rainbow we’d ever seen, extending for what seemed like miles and reaching high from the sky to the ground. We pulled over and gazed with wonder at this miracle, exclaiming with joy and gratitude. In those moments, we felt connected to each other and to something much larger than ourselves.

According to Dacher Keltner, PhD, an expert in the science of human emotion, we can discover awe anywhere in our lives:

“Awe is the emotion we experience when we encounter mysteries we don’t understand.” (Keltner, 2023)

There is a sense of “vastness” in awe that transcends our current connections and understandings. The content of what provokes the awareness of vastness or mystery varies greatly across location, culture, and life context – in other words, your perception of what arouses awe may be very different than mine.

As humans, we have a fundamental capacity for growth – our transformative potential is a variable process, not a motionless state of being. Recent research shows that daily experiences of awe can increase our well-being and predict greater satisfaction with life. Awe has been associated with reducing stress and physical health symptoms, such as lowering inflammation (Monroy, et al, 2023).

Can Simple Moments Be Transformative?

The experience of awe is considered a positive emotion by positive psychologists, along with other emotions, such as love, joy, amusement, interest, and gratitude (Monroy & Keltner, 2023; Fredrickson, 2013). A recent study reviewing scientific findings on awe by Maria Monroy and Dacher Keltner explains that awe involves five key human processes (2023):

1. Shifts in neurophysiology. Awe-related processes are associated with changes, including reduced arousal from stress, reduced anxiety, reduced inflammation, and elevated vagal tone (which can help the body relax faster after stress, improve digestion, and has many other benefits).

2. Awe can inspire a reduced focus on the self, for example, during encounters with nature or other experiences.

3. Relating to others more cooperatively. Experiences of awe are associated with greater preference and actions toward collaboration, cooperation, helping, sharing, and generosity, which can benefit other people or society as a whole.

4. Greater social integration. Awe-related experiences can inspire closer social distances between individuals and groups — greater community with others and with social networks.

5. Greater sense of meaning or purpose. Awe experiences can energize us to seek greater meaning and meaning-making processes in their own lives and their world. For example: understanding how events and experiences fit together, looking at connections between ourselves and that which is larger than ourselves, engaging in reflection and action that somehow make a difference in the context of our values.

In conclusion, during good times and bad, there are many pathways to experience awe and transformative experiences. Abraham Joshua Heschel (1983), the great philosopher and theologian, is credited with this famous quote:

🤩 “Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement…. get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.

Even during these challenging times, I invite you to consider that awe-inspiring experiences can be discovered in everyday amazement and wonder. How can you invite awe into your daily life?


Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. No content is a substitute for consulting with a qualified mental health or healthcare professional.

An earlier version of this article was published at Psychology Today.

© 2024 Ilene Berns-Zare, LLC, All Rights Reserved

Send your comments and suggestions to Ilene!
Click here 
to send Ilene an email with your thoughts about this blog post.


Flourish and Thrive: Navigating Transitions with Mindfulness and Resilience - IBZ Coaching

Ilene is a Featured Author on PsychologyToday!
Read her blog series Flourish and Thrive: Navigating transitions with mindfulness and resilience.

Ilene Berns-Zare - Life and Work Coach
When did you last notice a moment of awe in your life?

Tap into your strengths, purpose, and potential to flourish in life and work.

If you’d like to discuss how Ilene Berns-Zare Coaching can help you achieve your goals, contact Ilene.

Coaching with Ilene Can Help You Call Yourself to Action

Ilene Berns-Zare, PsyD, PCC, CEC, is an Executive and Personal Coach and Speaker. Ilene helps people live their best personal and professional lives by bringing mind, body, and spirit into flow with strengths, purpose, and potential. She inspires clients to find fresh perspectives and access their full potential as creative, resourceful, whole persons. Find Ilene online, set up a free discovery coaching consultation, and access free resources at

Please share this blog with anyone who might be interested in reading it!

We would love to hear from you! We are interested in your suggestions for this newsletter, your reactions to this one, or providing more information about coaching.