Awe Walks Benefit Emotional and Physical Well-Being

Dec 22, 2022 | Mental Health, Stress

Since the pandemic, people have found nature to be the best solution for decreasing stress levels. Spending too much time indoors can make us forget about how beautiful it is outside and about the many things worth loving about life.

Research on Nature and Decreased Stress

Research from the University of Exeter Medical School in the UK shows that adding even a single dose of nature to your week can provide both mental and physical benefits. Studies show that “walking in awe” for just 15 minutes a week is an engaging, healthy activity that can increase feelings of wonder and decrease feelings of stress.

Lead researcher Virginia Sturm, associate professor of neurology, psychiatry, and behavioral sciences at the University of California, San Francisco, told Treehugger, “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.”

Research Participant Groups

The researchers recruited 60 participants and randomly assigned them to two different groups who walked for 15 minutes outdoors for the duration of 8 weeks.

The first group of participants was asked to experience awe during their walks in nature. They were instructed to think about their sense of wonder and go somewhere new each week. They were also told that “awe” can be found in various places, but new and vast scenarios are more likely to inspire it.

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

Results and Proven Benefits

The data showed that those who took awe walks reported greater reverence and joy for life than those who took control walks. Their selfies also ended up having something important to say. The first group displayed an increasing smile intensity and a smaller self in the photos as they experienced the wonder of their surroundings.

Outside a walking context, the same benefits were also prevalent. Awe walkers experienced more positive emotions like gratitude and compassion. They experienced a decrease in distress over time, too.

This new study concludes that cultivating awe could boost positive emotions and reduce negative ones, which would enhance social connection and prevent a decline in emotional well-being.

To put this in other words, the more we look to experience life in a positive way, the better we tend to feel.  So be mindful of where you put your energy and pay attention to the beauty around you.  You will feel better if you do.

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