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Neurobiology of Awe

June 12, 20232 min read

Neurobiology of Awe

I recently read this article about how L.L. Bean, the clothing and outdoor equipment retailer is taking a full month off posting on social media.


L.L.Bean partnered with Dr. Paul Piff, a researcher studying an emerging field called “The Science of Awe,” whose work reveals how nature — and the powerful and calming feelings it evokes — has been scientifically proven to enhance our overall well-being.

neurobiology of awe

There are studies that show that exposure to nature, even in the form of videos or images can help.

For example, a study by Ulrich et al. (1991) found that exposure to nature, even in the form of videos or images, can lead to reduced stress, lower blood pressure, and increased positive emotions.

Another study by Park et al. (2010) showed that viewing nature scenes can lead to reduced stress, improved mood, and increased attention restoration.


Dacher Keltner and Jonathan Haidt say


" awe is in the upper reaches of pleasure and on the boundaries of fear. "


When we think about the biology of awe has been shown to reduce the body's inflammatory response, pointing to the actions of our ventral vagal system in action. 

Awe is the experience of being in the presence of something vast that transcends our experience of the world.


And when we think about the difference between loneliness and solitude I often think of loneliness as a dorsal-first state, where connection feels out of reach, whereas solitude is one that is ventrally mediated, which means that the experience feels very connected and choice-filled. Awe is a state where there is first solitude in that experience which then moves us to seek connection with curiosity.


Awe is found in big life events - birth or death or something big that transcends the mundane. But I also like to invite micro-moments of awe in our everyday life.


Our breath for example, or our heartbeat - what wonderfully complex processes they are, and yet, thanks to the fact that they are under the supervision of the autonomic nervous system, happen largely without us noticing and directing it.


How is this related to the Nerve to Lead?


When we become active operators of our own biology we are no longer overwhelmed by life events, and a resilient nervous system sets the stage for health and well-being in all realms - workplace, personal life, or health.


As a nervous system coach, when you enroll in my foundation nervous system tuning program, we learn exactly how to become students of our own biology, with curiosity and awe. We learn how to reliably and predictably track and trace our journeys of connection and protection. Book a call with me so we can explore more.

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Have you experienced moments of awe in your own life? If so, share it here.

neurobiology of aweinflammatory responsenervous systemawenature and stress
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Sangheetha Parthasarathy

CEO, Sangparth |Neuroscience| MIT-Harvard Med School Innovation Bootcamp | Ex-Accenture | Top 100 Global HC leaders | Somatic Experiencing Practitioner

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