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Can't make it to the total eclipse? 5 fun ways to bring wonder and awe into your life

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On Monday, April 8, millions of people across the U.S. will be able to view a total solar eclipse — an experience that eclipse chaser and science writer David Baron says will change your life.

"You will see a sun you've never seen before," he told Life Kit in an interview. "It's like you've left the solar system and are looking back from some other world."

But ... what if you can't make it to this awe-inducing, otherworldly, once-in-a-blue-moon solar event?

Don't worry — there are other ways to bring wonder and enchantment into your everyday life. Here are 5 tips from Life Kit's experts.

NPR will also be sharing highlights herefrom across the NPR Network throughout the day Monday if you're unable to get out and see it in real time.

To capture the bizarre, make sense of your dreams

Want to capture the surreality of the eclipse you can't make? Try interpreting your dreams. Deirdre Barrett, a dream researcher at Harvard, explains how. Say your intention aloud at bedtime. "Just tell yourself as you're falling asleep that you want to remember your dreams," she says.

The moment you wake up, write down your dream and "take a moment to notice what you were dreaming and think about whether it has any potential relevance in your waking life," says Barrett. Pay attention to the symbols and images. Then ask yourself what those visuals mean to you. To find out how to use your dreams to solve problems, listen to our episode.

To behold supernatural beauty, open your eyes to novelty

Yes, the total eclipse will be the most brilliant event in the heavens on Monday, but that doesn't mean you can't find beauty in the world around you. Jenny Odell, author of How to Do Nothing, explained how to do this in a 2020 interview with Life Kit.

Be attentive to change, she says. Walk through your neighborhood and "try to pay attention to things that are flowering. This is a good time to be doing that because it's spring," she says. "Maybe over the course of weeks or months, continue to pay attention to those plants and track their flowering processes." Or you might focus on the different kinds of insects flying and buzzing about, or the sounds around you.

This exercise can help reopen your eyes to enchantment and novelty in your everyday life. For more exercises on how to pay attention, listen to our episode.

To alter your perception, look at a work of art

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Nastco/Getty Images

Just like a viewing an eclipse, connecting with a piece of art that really moves you can change your life. But how do you do that?

Even though it may not be what the artist intended, let yourself draw personal connections to the art, says art historian Susie Hodge. A color, a pattern or flower in a painting, for example, "might trigger something in your childhood or the deep recesses of your memory."

These free associations will help elicit an emotional reaction when you look at a work. Let your mind wander and follow your train of thought wherever it leads you. And a deep connection "will happen," says Hodge. Read the full story to get tips on what to look for when standing in front of a work of art.

To conjure powerful emotions, connect your heart to a poet's

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master1305/Getty Images

Witnessing something as supernatural as an eclipse can conjure powerful emotions that you may not be able to describe — but perhaps a poet can. See if you can connect feelings to words and move your heartstrings by reading poetry.

To do that, Harryette Mullen, a poet and professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, says to let go of trying to unlock the meaning of a poem as the poet intended and interpret it in your own way. Take a look at this poem, "The Song of Wandering Aengus" by William Butler Yeats. Ask yourself: What overall impression do you get? What ideas float around in your mind? What do you feel? Just look around in your own brain as you read the poem and take in what's there.

"Those kinds of overall impressions, I think most of us are left with something," says Mullen. Whatever that "something" is — trust it. Find out how to "visualize" a poem in this story.

To transform your body and mind through nature, try 'forest-bathing'

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Alfian Widiantono/Getty Images

Yes, viewing a total solar eclipse can be a transformational experience — but so can other elements of nature. Like spending time in the forest, what the Japanese call shinrin-yoku. "It is simply being in nature, connecting with it through our sense of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch," says Qing Li, a researcher on this topic and a professor at Nippon Medical School in Tokyo.

Gary Evans, director of the Forest Bathing Institute in the U.K., explains how to connect your body and mind to nature. Find a place in a forest or park where you are surrounded by trees. Settle in a spot that feels beautiful and resonant to you.

Now sit down, says Evans, and breathe deeply. "Inhale for a count of two and exhale for a count of four. Then keep that going. When the exhale is slower than the inhale, it sends a physiological message to your body that says: 'I'm safe. I can relax. It's OK.' "

You may be surprised by what you discover, says Evans. "Depending on what's happening in your emotional world, quite often when we look at nature or the forest, it sends something back to us to help us make sense of what's going on in our life." Learn more about the science of forest bathing and how it affects mental and physical health.


The digital story was written by Malaka Gharib and edited by Clare Marie Schneider. The visual editor is Beck Harlan. We'd love to hear from you. Leave us a voicemail at 202-216-9823, or email us at LifeKit@npr.org.

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Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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