With no shortage of anxiety-inducing news in the ether, carving out time away from screens and devices to exercise, take in some sunshine and experience the beauty of nature is so important for overall health and well-being. Spending time in natural sunlight can help promote a good night’s sleep, and a simple walk in the woods or alongside a body of water can inspire a sense of awe that helps ground us and reawaken delight in the natural world.
With all the worries of modern life; climate change, mutating viruses, the economy, politics, and discrimination, it can be hard to unplug and cultivate a sense of gratitude that can increase our happiness and contentment. But according to Berkeley’s Greater Good in Action: Science-Based Practices for a Meaningful Life, we can tap into positive inspiration with a mindful short stroll that allows us to take in our environment with all our senses.
Whether you are able to walk on a remote tree-lined path or are traversing city streets with towering buildings, there are always moments and sights that will bring delight – if you pay attention. By turning off your phone, taking several deep breaths, and connecting with the environment on a daily (or even weekly) walk, you can really tune into what fills you with awe and see the world around you with a fresh set of eyes.
On days when an outdoor adventure is not possible, awe can be found in listening to music, connecting with others, or visiting an art gallery, aquarium, or museum. With practice, it becomes second nature to find a sense of awe in our world. Researchers have found that vastness and novelty can aid in creating an awe-filled experience but with time it becomes second nature to see the wonder in the ordinary aspects of life as well.
Many people find a sense of peace in nature where their worries and problems may seem smaller when compared with the vastness of the ocean, the wide-open plains, or the view from the top of a hiking trail in the mountains. Shifting your attention to something larger outside yourself helps to boost positive feelings and in a recent study, older adults who took a 15-minute “awe walk” just once a week for eight weeks were more able to experience compassion and gratitude.