What‌ ‌is‌ ‌awe‌ ‌walking‌ ‌and‌ ‌why‌ ‌you‌ ‌should‌ ‌try‌ ‌it‌ ‌now‌

May 3, 2021

We all know regular exercise outdoors offers many benefits for your physical and mental health, but awe walking can have a profound impact on your soul. Intentionally channelling a sense of wonder can transform a simple stroll into a profound experience that can help reduce stress and improve your overall mental health.

Over the last year, the COVID-19 pandemic has left many Canadians cooped up at home, disconnected from social circles, and cut off from the outside world. Awe walking is a purposeful way to combat those feelings of hopelessness and anxiety by diminishing self-focus and turning attention outward.

What‌ ‌is‌ ‌awe‌ ‌walking‌ ‌and‌ ‌why‌ ‌you‌ ‌should‌ ‌try‌ ‌it‌ ‌now‌

[Photo Credit: maryviolet]

What is awe, anyway?

Awe is a sensation that’s difficult to quantify but unmistakable when experienced. It’s the sense that you are part of something much larger and more consequential than yourself. Think about the feeling you get when marvelling at an expansive mountain range or basking in the glow of a spectacular sunset over the horizon.

When you deliberately shift your awareness to the vast world around you, your own worries begin to feel less important and overwhelming. Scientists refer to this concept as the ‘small self’ – a healthy sense of perspective on our individual place in the universe. This feeling of smallness and insignificance can actually make you feel better about your personal problems.

A 2020 study in Emotion by the American Psychological Association demonstrates that changing your mindset while walking for stress reduction can have a powerful impact on your wellbeing. During the two-month research study, a group of 60 adults was asked to take a short 15-minute walk each week. Those who were asked to cultivate awe during their outing reported an increased sense of gratitude and happiness and less emotional stress compared to those who set out on a regular walk.

So, how do you turn your next afternoon stroll into a transcendent experience? Here are some tips for channelling awe as part of a walking meditation practice.


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Dress for success

Whether you’re planning a 15-minute jaunt around the block or a three-hour hike in the woods, awe walking is all about focusing on the external world, which means you don’t want to be thinking about what you’re wearing. Invest in a pair of comfortable hiking boots or running shoes, layer up in sweat-wicking waterproof fabrics, and wear a hat to protect yourself from the elements.

Embrace the quiet

Awe walking requires all of your senses, so eliminate any distractions that could steal your attention. Turn off your phone, unplug your headphones, and shift your focus towards appreciating the remarkable sights, sounds, and smells in the environment that surrounds you.

Visit somewhere new

Novelty helps cultivate awe, so plan to visit a new neighbourhood or walking trail to get a fresh perspective. And while the natural world is full of beauty, awe walking doesn’t necessarily have to happen in a secluded forest or a remote mountainside. If you’re based in an urban area, try to absorb the excitement of the city and find awe in the colourful streetscapes and the soothing hum of traffic.

Practice makes perfect

When purposefully walking for stress, the key is to steer your mind away from your internal worries and concentrate on your surroundings; you want to stop and smell the roses, literally. As with any mindfulness exercise, you may find your thoughts drift off course during your walking meditation – and that’s okay. Don’t get mad at yourself if you start thinking about what to make for dinner, simply redirect your focus and bring yourself back to cultivating that awestruck feeling.

The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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