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06.29.21 | Community

Harness the power of awe by taking “awe walks”

Vibrant life encompasses a variety of experiences, from healthy eating to regular fitness to engaging with the world around us. One particularly effective – and unusual – way to pursue vibrant living is to take “awe walks.” The end-goal of these walks is simple:  to simply inspire awe in those who participate. Let’s dig in.

How to take awe walks

“Awe walks” are a more intentional way to approach something as simple as a stroll around the block. The idea is to go for a walk and seek to experience awe along the way. How the walker chooses to experience awe is entirely up to them. Awe can be found in even the smallest of everyday moments, such as appreciating the flight path of a v of migrating geese above, or marveling at the many colors that make up fall foliage.

The study of awe – how it’s inspired, and the impact it has on a person’s wellbeing – has been a primary area of focus for psychologists since the early 2000s. Just recently, a 2020 study was published in the journal Emotion examining the impact of awe walks on a population of older adults.

In the study, sixty older adults took 15-minute awe walks for a period of eight weeks. Perhaps the most exciting finding of the study was the increasing feelings of compassion and gratitude in the control group that took such awe walks. Compared to the normal-walk-talking counterparts, the awe walkers were much more focused on observing the world around them.

“One of the key features of awe is that it promotes what we call ‘small self,’ a healthy sense of proportion between your own self and the bigger picture of the world around you,” explained Dr. Virginia Sturm, lead investigator and associate professor of neurology and psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of California at San Francisco.

You can trust the science – or you can just as easily try it out for yourself and see what awe you uncover.

View from above of people taking a walk
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