Moments of Awe Can Improve Emotional Healthadmin
In a study recently published in the journal Emotion, University of California, San Francisco neuroscientist Virginia Sturm and her colleagues suggest that “[t]aking a simple weekly ‘awe walk’ might help older adults engage more deeply” with “the emotional response and feelings of wonder people experience when seeing things that they can’t fully comprehend,” also known as “awe”, Popular Science reports.
Sturm and her team conducted an eight-week experiment with 52 older adults with a median age of 75 years who were all part of a long-term project on healthy aging. The participants were divided into two groups, one group that was only told to take a weekly outdoor walk for 15 minutes, and one that was given brief additional instructions, asking them to “try to increase their experience of awe by attending to the world around them and tapping into their childlike sense of wonder,” Sturm explained.
The researchers checked in with participants every day, asking them to provide information about their emotional state. Participants were also asked to take selfies at the beginning, middle, and end of each walk, and filled out a brief survey with open-ended reflections. Throughout the course of the study, Sturm and her colleagues found that those who participated in “awe walks” experienced an increasing number of positive things.
“Even brief experiences of awe yield a host of benefits including an expanded sense of tie and enhanced feelings of generosity, well-being and humility,” the research paper stated.
While this study was small and participants were older adults who were all initially in good health, Sturm says that for people experiencing serious anxiety or depression might benefit from these “awe walks”.
“These results suggest cultivating awe enhances positive emotions that foster social connection and diminishes negative emotions that hasten decline,” the researchers concluded.