Experiencing awe – those feelings of wonder and inspiration, like we are a part of something larger than ourselves – can actually increase our happiness and physical health, and make us more likely to be generous. These all seem important right now, so here is an activity you can do while physically distant from others! This activity is taken from the Greater Good Science Center’s Greater Good in Action website. Check it out for other awesome activities.
For this activity you will be going for a walk. Choose any location that has some form of these two key features: physical vastness and novelty. Physical vastness might be the sky, or the endless prairie or water, or the height of a skyscraper. Novelty just means that some aspect of the sights and sounds are unfamiliar to you (maybe you walk here every day, but you can try to notice things you’ve never noticed before). Leave your phone at home – you won’t need it (or the distractions).
- Start by taking a deep breath – inhaling to a count of six and then exhaling to a count of six. Notice how the breath feels and sounds. You will return to your breath several time throughout the practice.
- Begin your walk. Feel your feet on the ground and listen to the surrounding sounds.
- Shift your awareness to the space around you, the potential for vastness. Look for unexpected things that surprise and delight.
- Take another deep breath – inhaling to a count of six and exhaling to a count of six.
- Let your attention land on what inspires awe for you. Is it a wide landscape? Small patterns of light and shadow? Let your attention move from vast to small.
- Continue your walk, alternating focus between your breath, the sights (vast and small), sounds, smells and other sensations that usually go undetected when you walk with less awareness.