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As a result of spending more time at home, I have renewed steps to nurturing an indoor garden. Approaching this with the strength of persistence, I have observed that some of my plants seem to need me more than others. Some like more light, others seem to enjoy slight changes to the environment, and curiously, some of my plant fails have begun to thrive when I discarded them outside to await for their inevitable fate in hard rubbish. It strikes me that relationships are very much like these plants; each one needing nuanced care and attention to thrive and flourish.

Over the past few months, our team has heard countless stories from schools reporting significant ruptures in relationships: Students needing to be taught how to work together and staff struggling to maintain focus to work cohesively with each other. I wonder if it stems from a slow burn erosion of our collective wellbeing brought on by the continuing impacts of COVID-19. Many schools are attempting to return to a business as usual pace in 2021. In fact, the term catching up has been used in several conversations which suggests the complexities of schools trying to bounce forward from the pandemic.

Keyes (2002) suggests that like my plants, I languish when my system is undernourished or overloaded. Often that means I need different attention to replenish myself. During my time-out I consciously reflect on what matters, what I need to keep doing and what I need to stop doing. Positive psychology researchers Keltner and Haidt (2003) also recommend connecting to awe-some experiences as a positive emotion enhancing practice.

Awe in positive situations often refers to a wide range of experiences that can be positive (awesome) and have a transcendent quality (Keltner & Haidt, 2003). I am choosing to focus on the emotive and connecting aspects of this complex emotion. Recently, I visited Anangu, the land of the Yankunytjatjara and Pitjantjatjara people and connected with Australia’s desert heart. I was inspired by the magnificence of Uluru and Kata Tjuta and the miniscule like bugs, butterflies and tiny flowers. All awe-fuelling wonders nature put on my path. Most of all I experienced the freedom of taking time to notice and enjoy these miracles.

What ways do you fill your emotional ‘bucket’? The Berry Street Education Model (BSEM) strategies that bolster staff wellbeing and self-care remind us to first recharge our own batteries before trying to support others. Perhaps autumn is a time to pause and be delighted by the changing colours as a wellbeing strategy, finding joy in the ordinary.

Research indicates that connectedness increases when awe is observed (Krause & Hayward, 2015). It provides a simple step in the reconstruction of our relational interactions, I hope so. The Greater Good Science Centre, University of Berkley, proposes many studies demonstrate a correlation between experiences of awe, wellbeing and connectedness within relationships (Allen, 2018). As we move further into our post-pandemic period of response and recovery, we are urged to look for moments of joy and awe. Look at your garden, take inspiration from nature and encourage the delight in the daily ordinary of our world. Awesome reminders are out there, every day. We just need to notice.

Article by Leonie Abbott


  • Allen, S. (2018). The Science of Awe. A white paper prepared for the John Templeton Foundation by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley.
  • Brunzell, T., Norrish, J., Ralston, S., Abbott, L., Witter, M., Joyce, T., & Larkin, J. (2015). Berry Street Education Model: Curriculum and Classroom Strategies, Domain 2: Relationship. Melbourne, VIC: Berry Street Victoria.
  • Keltner, D. J., & Haidt, J. (2003). Approaching awe, a moral, spiritual, and aesthetic emotion. Cognition and Emotion, 17(2), 297–314.
  • Keyes, C. L. (2002). The Mental Health Continuum: From Languishing to Flourishing in Life. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Vol. 43 (2), 207-222.
  • Koh, A. H. Q., Tong, E. M. W., & Yuen, A. Y. L. (2017). The buffering effect of awe on negative affect towards lost possessions. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 9760, 1–10.
  • Krause, N., & Hayward, R. D. (2015). Assessing whether practical wisdom and awe of god are associated with life satisfaction. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 7(1), 51–59.