Taking an Awe Walk Can Make You Happier!

New Study shows how combining mindfulness and nature can boost joy.

Mar 21, 2021
Taking an Awe Walk Can Make You Happier! | New Study shows how combining mindfulness and nature can boost joy.

It’s in these times more than ever, after having to be indoors for so long during the pandemic, that we can truly appreciate being outside, and enjoy paying close attention to all the great and small wonders that nature has to offer. 

Research from the University of Exeter Medical School in the UK, has already shown that a dose of nature a week gives us mental and physical benefits. And now, a new dimension has been revealed that can boost wellbeing to new heights. 

It turns out that just 15 minutes of “awe walks'' a week offer great emotional benefits to healthy adults. This is because they bring positive emotions and decrease daily distress over time, according to a study performed by the University of California, San Francisco.

“We did this study because we were interested in finding simple ways to increase positive emotions and brain health in older adults. Sustained negative emotions can have detrimental effects on brain health and aging trajectories” lead researcher Virginia Sturm, an associate professor of neurology, psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of California, San Francisco, told Treehugger.

But what does awe mean exactly? It is the feeling of smallness and wonder people might experience when standing before something much bigger than themselves, inc.com details. Imagine the feeling that astronauts experience when they look down at Earth from space, or how we all might feel while looking up at the infinite sky.

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The researchers recruited sixty participants, randomly assigned to two different groups, to take 15-minute outdoor walks for a period of eight weeks. 

The first group oriented their participants to experience awe during their strolls. They were asked to use their sense of wonder and to try to go somewhere new each week, according to the British Psychological Society Research Digest blog. They were also told that awe can be found in most places, but that vast and new scenarios are more likely to inspire it.

And while the other one was a control walk group, both were encouraged to take photographs and to express their emotional experiences, not only during the experimental walks, but also during the rest of the week.

The results were astonishing. Those who took awe walks reported greater awe, but also greater joy during the walks than those who took control walks. Their selfies also had something important to say: the first group showed increasing smile intensity and exhibited a smaller self in the photographs over the weeks as they experienced the wonder of their surroundings.

Outside the walk context, the discoveries were also remarkable. Awe walkers reported experiencing more positive, prosocial emotions like gratitude and compassion, and greater decreases in daily distress over time. This “suggests cultivating awe enhances positive emotions that foster social connection and diminishes negative emotions that hasten decline”, the study reveals.

Now you know the benefits of taking an awe walk, are you willing to try out one soon? This guide from The Greater Good Science Center will help you find wonder and inspiration through a simple stroll.

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With a love for fashion, technology, self-development, nature and communication, Daiana is a freelance writer. She is the creator of an online community platform dedicated to providing inspiration and information on trends, developments and positive impact initiatives in the world of Sustainable Fashion.