The Power of Awe

I’m in Awe! I’m reading an article in which researchers say scientists are now backing what poets and philosophers have long since known - and that is the power of awe! Scientists can now verify seeking this phenomena (which is not easily understood).. can lead to huge emotional well-being boosts! They split 52 adults into two groups, one was asked to take a weekly stroll, the other asked to seek out ‘awe’ (two key features: physical vastness and novelty). This might include historic monuments, botanical gardens, starry nights, or - more what we’re used to around here - our mountains, valleys and panoramic views After 8 weeks those seeking out awe tended to feel more positive emotions, such as compassion and gratitude, compared to the control group. There were also signs that their perception of their place in the world had shifted. “A very simple intervention, essentially a reminder to occasionally shift our energy and attention outward, instead of inward can lead to significant improvement in emotional well-being”, the leader of the research said Interestingly despite the participants in the control group taking more frequent walks (perhaps because some suspected that the study was focused on exercise), this did not result in similar shifts in emotional well-being The ‘awe group’ displayed a growing sense of wonder; one participant recalled “the beautiful autumn colours, how the leaves were no longer crunchy underfoot because of the rain” And those in the control group tended to be inwardly focused, thinking about things in the future and their ‘to do lists’ (all good, but not as valuable) Lastly, the researchers asked participants to take photographs of themselves Those in the awe group made themselves progressively smaller over the 8 weeks, preferring to feature the landscapes whilst at the same time their smiles grew bigger. In psychological literature awe is described as promoting what is known as a small-self - in other words a healthy sense of proportion between yourself and the larger world. The scientists never expected to be able to document the ability to create an emotionally healthy small self literally on camera! I have to say - all this is right up my street!! (Bad analogy!!) I’m studying forest bathing at the moment which would completely concur with everything written here - but the only bit I would add it it’s also so good to focus on the opposite - which is, in this vast world the ability to also notice (see, taste, smell, touch, hear) .... the smallest details too. (In my opinion and from personal observation that is what leads to gratitude and then the appreciation of life itself)

How to do it (awe)

Walk alone for at least 15 minutes searching out vast and unfamiliar things - put the phone away! Each week choose a new location: you’re more likely to feel awe in a new environment where the sights and sounds are unfamiliar (I’m going to seek out some new dog walks!) Panoramic views, tall trees, and sunsets are recommended but even in cities- monuments, zoos, large buildings, and botanical Gardens would all be good examples!  And another idea (from me), is that seeking out new experiences all the time makes life last longer I’ve read research on this in the past. That’s why when we were little school holidays seem to go on forever it was because when we were small everything felt new lots and lots of new experiences we get jaded as we get older because we’ve done it all before but there is still plenty of scope to experience wonder!!  And as soon as I have this diploma which I’m mainly getting for new ideas but also the boring bits like Insurance I will be taking you forest bathing!! In any weather!

Lastly Nordic Walking starts tonight don’t forget at the weekends you are welcome to come with us and the best bit? I can take you to new places where you really will experience awe!! promise!!

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