A study by the University of California, San Francisco found that people consciously aware of the vistas and objects around them on a walk—which the researchers dubbed “awe walks”—reported being more hopeful and upbeat than walkers who did not.
Awe was described as a positive emotion felt and shown when in the presence of things not immediately understood. The researchers noted that awe reduces self-focus, and promotes more social connection and prosocial actions.
For the study, 60 older men and women took weekly 15-minute outdoor walks for eight weeks. The participants took photographs of themselves during each walk and rated their emotional experience.
Results showed that those who experienced greater awe during their walks exhibited an increasingly “small self” in their photographs over time. They reported greater joy and positive, social emotions and displayed increasing smile intensity over the course of the study. Outside of the walk context, participants who took awe walks reported greater increases in daily prosocial positive emotions and greater decreases in daily distress over time.