Awe Walk Boosts Mental Health and Well-Being, According to Science

Awe Walk Boosts Mental Health and Well-Being, According to Science

There are several reasons to love walking. It improves your mood, boosts cardiovascular health, and can be a great way to keep in touch with family and friends.

New research suggests a way to enhance the psychological health benefits of walking using a technique called ‘Awe Walk,’ specifically designed to enhance positive emotions during exercise.

  • The new research found that weekly 15-minute awe walks have positive effects on mental health and well-being.
  • Volunteers reported an increased sense of compassion and gratitude after eight weeks of these walks.
  • Researchers believe this economic way can help prevent cognitive decline in older adults.

WHAT IS AN AWE WALK?

‘Awe walk’ is a stroll where you deliberately divert your attention outward rather than inward. It means you are not thinking about an incomplete project, a close deadline, your relationship tension, or worries about the Corona Virus.

The Science of ‘AWE WALK’

Awe is defined as a positive emotion prompted by the perception of something far greater than the self that cannot be immediately understood – such as nature, music, art, or collective action. 

The experience of awe-walk produces a host of benefits, ranging from an extensive sense of time and feelings of compassion to generosity and well-being.

The purpose of an awe walk is to divert attention from yourself and appreciate the wonders of the world around you everywhere. 

Importance of “Awe Walk” Explored by the Study

Researchers from the Global-Brain-Health Institute and U.S-San Francisco-Memory-Aging-Center recently published a study in the journal Emotion that looks at the benefits of 15 minutes walking compared to regular walking. The survey found that a regular Awe walk can boost positive feelings and improve mental health & well-being compared to a simple walk.

In this survey, volunteers were divided into two groups.

  • Group 1: Half of the participants were placed in the awe walk group. Where the researchers described the feeling of Awe and suggested that walkers try to experience those feelings while strolling around. Participants took weekly 15-minute Awe walks for eight weeks.
  • Group 2: The other half were randomly assigned to a simple walk group.

The Outcomes of the Study:

Volunteers filled out brief surveys after each walk, which detailed characteristics of the walk and the emotions they experienced.

  • Group 1: The survey showed that people in the ‘awe group’ reported increasing experiences of Awe on their walks – suggesting certain advantages of practice during the survey. They also reported an appreciation for the world around them and a greater awareness of nature’s beauty. 

The Awe group experienced a substantial increase in positive prosocial emotions (gratitude & compassion) and also improved mental health & well-being.

  • Group 2: Participants retained an inner focus on things like work and household chores when asked to describe their thoughts while walking. 

Awe Walks Are Just What You Need Right Now!

Although, some ways you usually experience Awe (like going to a concert or museum) are limited during the pandemic. Most people can still get outdoor and enjoy nature. 

  1. Awe Walk & COVID-19 Pandemic: The benefits of Awe-inspiring walk can extend to people of all ages and seem particularly crucial in times of crisis – like the COVID-19 pandemic.
  2. Awe Walk Boosts Mental Health: According to science, Awe walks are a readily accessible way to tackle common mental health problems, especially as you age. 
  3. Awe Walk Kills Stress & Loneliness: Negative emotions, especially loneliness, have well-documented adverse effects in older adults. Significant psychological research shows that Awe helps us feel less anxious, more connected, and generally happier.
  4. Awe Walk Promotes Prosocial Emotions: Awe walkers described a boost in daily prosocial positive emotions and reduction in daily stress over time.
  5. Awe Walk Boosts Emotional Well-Being: Experiencing Awe is so easy. Just take a moment to look out the window or reflect on the technological wonders surrounding you. It reduces workday stress and can have a measurable impact on your emotional well-being.
  6. Awe Walk Lowers the Risk of Diseases: While treatments that include medication or therapy sessions can be costly, an awe walk is easy and free. The research suggested that people who experience Awe have less depression and fewer inflammation signs.
  7. Awe Walk Reduces the Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease: Awe walks have shown to improve the brain’s resistance to Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive impairment and reduce memory loss over time in older people.

Remarkably, the simple intervention can cause significant changes in daily emotional experiences. And it is that simple. Take a moment and think about the wonders surrounding you. Everyone needs a little more joy and a little more connection to the world around them.

HOW TO GET STARTED

To add Awe to your routine, take a start with two 15-minute walks every week until it becomes a regular habit. Then you can increase your duration or frequency as desired.

Here are some guidelines that science recommends:

  1. Minimize distractions like phones, music, or audiobooks.
  2. Take a deep breath. Count to six on inhalation and six on exhalation. Feel the flow of air through your nasal passages and listen to your breathing. Throughout the walk, return to that spirit.
  3. When you start walking, feel your feet on the ground and hear the sounds around you.
  4. Try to see the world as a child, like you are seeing things for the first time. Appreciate the infinity of things; enjoy the panoramic view or the close-up view of a leaf or a flower.
  5. Move to a new location each week. You will feel Awe when the environment is unfamiliar to you.
  6. To become more active, set a simple goal to improve and track your daily steps.

Some More Specific Ideas for an Awe-Inspiring Walk

NATURAL SETTINGS:

  • A path lined with tall trees
  • A mountain with a panoramic view
  • The shore of a river, lake, waterfall, or ocean
  • A place where you can see a sunrise or a sunset
  • A clear night where you can see the stars

URBAN SETTINGS:

  • The top of a skyscraper 
  • A historical monument
  • A large stadium or ballpark
  • A part of your city that you have never visited before
  • A zoo or botanical garden and see new species
  • An art walk through the city and explore different galleries
  • Go around without a goal and see where it takes you

INDOOR SETTINGS:

  • A planetarium or aquarium
  • A historic cathedral, mansion, or opera house
  • Stroll through a museum, paying your full attention to each piece

Awe Walk: Takeaway

Scientists have discovered a simple intervention that can make a big difference to your working day. Awe walks are simple, short, easy, and cost-free.

If you are trying to find a way to reduce stress, boost joy, improve mental health, well-being and feel more connected to others. Plan a weekly short trip to a new awe-inspiring place.

Try an ‘Awe Walk’ this week, and hopefully, you will come home feeling both much smaller and calmer.

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