SoulCare® Practices

Wandering with Wonder

I'm not sure about you, but for me, 2024 has started off on a rough note. We kick off each year filled with hope, aiming to make this year better than the last. We set out with intentions to make positive changes—work out more, eat healthier, consume less alcohol—all of which are great goals. However, we're also aware that sickness, loss, unexpected changes, and challenges are part of the package, often derailing our ambitions, and 2024 will be no exception.

This, however, doesn't signal a surrender to a grim future. Instead, it serves as an invitation—an invitation to acknowledge that, despite the difficulties, there is still room for wonder and hope. Imagine, rather than setting (and often abandoning) New Year's resolutions focused on a "better you," we instead commit to seeing the world differently. This year, we choose a new habit: teaching ourselves to notice, to delight in, to wander, and to wonder, strengthening our mental muscles for hope and strength in whatever 2024 brings.

I am drawn to the concept of wandering. It might be because it hints at a sense of freedom where we can roam freely, unencumbered by deadlines and to-do lists. It is an escape from the rush and urgency of daily life and suggests an openness to new experiences. But wandering requires us first to slow down, to set aside distractions, acknowledge our tasks without rushing into them, and engage with the world, even if just for a moment, at a leisurely pace. Wandering can be as simple as savoring the tastes and textures of your food or morning coffee, lying in bed a little longer to let your mind and body reconnect after sleep, or calling a friend in the middle of your day just because.

And as you wander, allow yourself to wonder. As children, we wondered about everything. Why is the grass green? How do birds fly? Why do I need to bathe? Welcoming wonder back into our lives means not taking for granted the everyday sights and experiences. By actively engaging in wonder, we open ourselves up to the possibilities that surround us. It lifts our head beyond our immediate concerns and challenges, and to see the world more broadly and feel more connected to our world and community. It brings curiosity and awe, both of which are known to enhance mood and well-being.

Not surprisingly, when we are in the middle of our struggles, we find it hard and almost impossible to appreciate the beauty and good around us. We often overlook it, taking it for granted. But it's there, waiting to be seen and experienced. This is why slowing down needs to become a regular practice, a part of our daily lives, so when the inevitable hardships come, we are still open to hope and joy.

But, what if like me you find slowing and not being “productive” difficult? There is good news. Taking a break from your busy schedule can actually help you become more focused, creative, and better at solving problems. When we do activities that don't require much structure and let our minds roam freely, we can refresh our ability to concentrate and lower the mental fatigue we might be feeling. This is why we often get new ideas or solutions when doing something simple, like taking a shower. These moments away from tasks give our brains a chance to work on problems in the background, leading to those "aha" moments.

The year has just started. So, let's challenge ourselves. Whether it is to bring more awe into your life or give yourself more space for new ideas and creativity, consider what it would mean to intentionally insert pauses into our days, weeks, and months to slow down, wander, and wonder. It just might shift, not just our view of the world, but our very experience of life itself.

Here are some thoughts to get you started:

  • Slow: Pause during periods of transition in your day. While walking to your car or passing a window or co-worker, appreciate small moments or things around you—a sunny patch on the floor, the sound of birds, a pleasant scent.
  • Wander: Take walks without a destination in mind. Allow yourself to be guided by your senses or curiosity rather than a predetermined route. Notice the sights, sounds, and smells around you.
  • Wonder: Allow yourself to be curious. It could be something you see, hear, or think about. Do a bit of research on it, ask questions, and explore this curiosity without any pressure for it to lead to productivity.