Today’s Solutions: April 17, 2024

In a world full of wonders, explore the unexpected joy and well-being that awe walks may provide. Let us begin on an exploratory journey inspired by the findings of Virginia Sturm, Ph.D. and associate professor of neurology and psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).

The awesome journey begins

The concept of awe walks encourages us to find astonishment not only in spectacular settings or grand landscapes but also in the ordinary. Virginia Sturm, motivated by the aim to improve positive emotions and brain health in older adults, launched a study to uncover the transforming impact of amazement in our daily lives.

Awe’s prosocial magic

Looking into the 2020 study, we discover the remarkable influence that awe walks had on older folks. Awe, which is known for its positive impact on social connection, compassion, and gratitude, has emerged as an important factor in improving emotional well-being. Virginia Sturm’s purpose was clear: to provide simple yet effective strategies to improve people’s lives.

Creating the awe experience

The art of awe walks is to encourage people to regain their childhood sense of wonder. Dispositional mindfulness serves as a compass, encouraging people to intentionally and impartially focus on the present moment. The study took participants on a tour where they were encouraged to see the environment through new eyes, enjoying the tiny characteristics of leaves or flowers during their stroll.

Smiles, selfies, and shifting perspectives

Visual cues were crucial in determining the effectiveness of awe walks. Participants in the awe group gradually started making themselves less important in selfies, allowing the landscape to take center stage.

“We analyzed the intensity of the smiles participants showed in selfies they sent from their walks, and participants who took awe walks displayed greater smiles over time than those who took control walks. In the photographs, participants who took awe walks also showed a ‘small self,’ in that they filled less of their photographs with their own image and more with the background scenery. Awe is thought to promote a small self because it helps us to put ourselves in perspective and to see how small we are in the larger world and universe. We feel small during awe but more connected to the world around us,” reported Sturm.

The ripple effect: awe walks in daily life

The study’s findings went beyond the times of amazement walks, indicating a spillover effect on daily emotions. Awe experiences not only caused favorable sentiments in the moment but also resulted in a stronger sense of connection to the planet. The desire to attention to and care for others became a natural result of regularly experiencing wonder.

Awe knows no age: generalized results for all

Virginia Sturm confirms that the benefits of awe walks are likely to extend beyond the study’s elderly participants, making it a universal prescription for improved well-being. As we manage the pressures of daily life, awe walks beckon, reminding us to pause, tap into wonder, and see the transformational magic that occurs.

Source study: Emotion—Big smile, small self: Awe walks promote prosocial positive emotions in older adults.

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