Finding More Awe: “Awe Walks” in Central Park

"Finding more awe: awe walks in central park" appears over a peaceful green park
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Finding More Awe: “Awe Walks” in Central Park

The New York Times says, “Awe Walks Might Do Wonders for Your Well-Being.” Join us to learn how to find more awe in your life.

These walks set the stage for awe seeking, deep listening, and moments of connection.

Our screen-based lives leave us feeling depleted.

While so many vital pieces of our life – our job, our grocery lists, and our entertainment – exist in our digital, palm-sized universe, our minds lose contact with our surroundings and the world we share with our friends, loved ones, and peers.

And yet, we have hope of reestablishing our bond to the world around us, and experiencing indescribable feelings of wonder, curiosity, and inspiration that accompany this connection. We call this emotion: awe.

What is Awe?

Awe is an emotion we experience when we’re filled with wonder or amazement.

Researchers define awe as the human response to experiences that transcend the way we typically perceive the world. These moments generate a sense of wonder or an experience of mystery.

According to Dacher Keltner PhD, a professor of psychology, at the University of California, Berkeley who’s led the field of awe research, experiencing awe not only enhances happiness and physical health but also reduces feelings of entitlement and increases generosity. Moments of awe are ‘health-giving’ and immunity building. According to Dr. Keltner, awe moments can bring our nervous system and heartbeat and breath into sync –and even into sync with others around us.

Awe Walks for Your Well-Being

An ‘Awe Walk’ Might Do Wonders for Your Well-Being,” published in The New York Times, September 30, 2020, recounts a study of 52 participants divided into two groups: a first group asked to walk at least once a week and a second group who also walked at least once a week but were instructed in how to cultivate awe as they walked.

They emphasized that the awesome can be anywhere and everywhere from a sweeping panorama of cliffs and sea to sunlight dappling a leaf. “Awe is partly about focusing on the world outside of your heads,” says Virginia Strum, associate professor of neurology at U.C.S.F. who the study, and rediscovering it is filled with marvelous things that are not you.

After eight weeks the study found that the ‘awe walkers’ seemed to have become adept at discovering and amplifying awe. One member of the awe group reported noticing the “beautiful fall colors and the absence of them in the evergreen forests.” A control walker, in contrast, said she spent much of a recent walk fretting about an upcoming vacation and “all the things I had to do before we leave.”

The study also showed differences in well-being that were small but significant: overall the awe walkers felt happier, less upset and more socially connected than the men and women in the control group. Of course, awe is an emotion and the results are subjective but nevertheless, the possibilities are enticing.

“It is such a simple thing” to look around for small wonders while you exercise, Dr. Sturm said and “there is no downside.”

Excerpted from The New York Times

Testimonials from past participants:

“I learned the value of stillness, pausing my mind and soaking up the nature all around me. It was a series of beautiful and calming moments.”

“I have lived in New York for about 25 years, right near Central Park, and I thought I’d been all the way through it. But you got me into a section I had not seen! …I had no idea there would be so many birds and flowers.”

“You got me to come out of the apartment and enjoy a beautiful day in Central Park. I would certainly recommend this event. What a nice way to slow down, meet some new people and discover more about Central Park.”

“My favorite part was walking in silence. I noticed so many things I would normally pas right by. I will try this again.”