"Awe" walks inspire more joy, less distress

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Published: December, 2020

Need a little inspiration? The next time you take a walk outside, note things that spark a sense of wonder or awe. That's what some older adults tried for a small study published online Sept. 21, 2020, by the journal Emotion. Of the 50 people who took part, half went for weekly 15-minute walks outdoors (alone) for eight weeks, and snapped "selfies" along the way. The other half took the same walks and selfies, but visited a new place each time. They were asked, especially, to note things that inspired a sense of awe — like tree colors or leaves underfoot softened by rain. Participants also answered surveys about the emotions they felt on walk and non-walk days. After analyzing responses and photos, scientists found that people who people took the "awe walks" reported less distress and increasing awe, joy, compassion, and gratitude, compared with people on the regular walks. Awe walkers also smiled more and made themselves smaller in their photos, focusing more on landscapes — a sign of a greater appreciation of the world around them. Try it yourself: On your next walk, imagine you're seeing things for the first time. What will inspire you? Perhaps a path lined with trees, the shore of a lake, or an up-close look at skyscrapers. Jot down your observations, and see if you feel a sense of wonder and joy. Happy trails!

Image: © Igor Alecsander/Getty Images

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