The researchers at the UC San Francisco Memory and Aging Center and the Global Brain Health Institute (a partnership between UCSF and Trinity College Dublin) recently released a study that suggests that a regular dose of “awe” might improve your prosocial emotions, like compassion and gratitude.
With everyone finding themselves stuck working from home, isolated from their family and friends, a study like this comes at the perfect time. If you’re like me, you’ve probably found yourself feeling a little unsociable lately.
It can be far too easy to get caught up in our own minds and focused on only the things that revolve around us.
Why not look for new ways to make yourself more aware of what is going on around you. You may even find a new place to retreat to when things get a little too tedious in your life.
So what is this study?
In a new release about the study, Virginia Sturm, Ph.D., and associate professor of neurology and psychiatry and behavioral sciences explained, “Negative emotions, particularly loneliness, have well-documented negative effects on the health of older adults, particularly those over age 75.”
As we get older, we need to keep active, and the study would seem to suggest that all it might take is a simple 15-minute “awe walk” once a week.
The study’s focus group took place over eight weeks. Sixty older participants were asked to take weekly 15-minute walks and take selfies during their weekly walks. The participants reported experiencing greater joy and positive emotions during their walks, an effect that was even seen through the intensity of their smiles over the course of eight weeks.
UC Berkeley psychologist Dacher Keltner, Ph.D., and an expert in emotion, to develop a simple intervention also explained in the press release that, “Experiencing awe can contribute to a host of benefits including an expanded sense of time and enhanced feelings of generosity, well-being, and humility.”
The key part of the study was that the participants were split into two groups. One group was told to take a 15-minute walk, and another group was told to take a 15-minute walk with additional encouragement to focus on the “awe” of finding new places.
Can you only find “awe” nature?
Taking what was found in the study, it is safe to say that you can find “awe” many things. But nature certainly is one of the quickest ways to get better attuned to the world around us.
As it gets colder, you may find that you don’t want to take 15-minute walks through nature. Maybe take a short drive through the countryside or pop on a nature documentary and jump on the treadmill for a couple of minutes.
The key is to get outside of your house and get in touch with the world around you.
How do I find “awe” in things?
Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, awe is much the same. You may take awe in walking by placid lakes, while others find awe in walking through Central Park. Find something that sparks an interest for you.
Don’t feel beholden to the 15-minute weekly walks the study utilized. Try to incorporate short walks throughout the week; it will help boost your confidence, keep your mind engaged, and even help hone your focus. Mental stimulation is an important thing to focus on, especially when it comes to working from home.
The Bottom Line
While the study may not be a conclusive answer to how whether walks truly encourage happiness, it can’t hurt to give it a try. Finding awe in the little things is a great way to get us out of our heads and work towards gaining new perspectives about our lives and the world around us.
Try to incorporate one or two walks into your workweek, whether it’s before work or during your lunch break. It will help you stay energized, focused and keep you “awe-inspired.”