Going on a 15-minute “awe walk” each week, where we stop to appreciate the world around us, can help boost positive emotions and reduce stress, a new study has shown.
It’s well known that getting out of the house to take a short walk every day can dramatically improve our mood.
But US scientists say walking boosts our frame of mind even more if we make a note to soak up the beauty of what is around us.
These “awe walks”, where we soak up nature, architecture and more, can boost healthy “pro-social” emotions such as compassion and gratitude.
After analysing selfies taken during these walks over the course of eight weeks, the US experts found that awe walks can also make us smile more.
“What we show here is a very simple intervention,” said Professor Virginia Sturm of the University of California San Francisco.
“Essentially, a reminder to occasionally shift our energy and attention outward instead of inward can lead to significant improvements in emotional wellbeing.
“Experiencing awe is such a simple practice – just taking a moment to look out the window or pausing to consider the technological marvels that surround us – and we now show it can have measurable effects on our emotional wellbeing.
“A little more joy and a little more connectedness with the world around us is something all of us could use these days.”
The study was inspired by a call from the Global Brain Health Institute for research proposals on ways to identify simple, low-cost interventions to improve brain health.
Professor Sturm partnered with psychologist Dacher Keltner, an expert in emotion at the University of California Berkeley, to develop a simple intervention.
Its concept was simple – to try to replicate the feeling of awe by drawing on external cues.
“Awe is a positive emotion triggered by awareness of something vastly larger than the self and not immediately understandable – such as nature, art, music, or being caught up in a collective act such as a ceremony, concert or political march,” Keltner said.
“Experiencing awe can contribute to a host of benefits, including an expanded sense of time and enhanced feelings of generosity, wellbeing and humility.”
The team recruited 52 healthy older adults from the University of California San Francisco’s long-running Hilblom Healthy Ageing Study programme.
They asked each of these participants to take at least one 15-minute walk each week for eight weeks.
Half of the participants in the study were asked to replicate the emotion of awe during their walks – the rest in the “control group” weren’t. – MailOnline