Many doctors and mental health professionals agree that spending time in green spaces improves, both physical and emotional health. it can also improve our relationships. But what is the secret ingredient in nature that brings about these benefits? A recent study suggests that it is awe. The participants reported their pre-study emotional well-being and then were sent off on a one-day or four-day river-rafting trip. The military veterans and youth that made up the study groups were told to journal every day about their feelings and report on whether they felt awe, amusement, peace, gratitude, joy, or pride that day. Upon their return, the subjects reported having a greater sense of well-being with the youth subjects scoring the highest. When the researching looked over the participants' diaries, the one common factor that they all experienced, above and beyond any of the other positive emotions, was awe.
In the next study, the researchers decided to study whether or not awe play played any role in ordinary, everyday nature experiences. This time, the participants were undergraduate college students who were instructed to keep a daily diary for two weeks. They were instructed to recount all the positive experiences they had each day. Additionally, they were told to write about their feelings and overall satisfaction with their life. They filled out a survey before the experiment and again afterward. "Analyses of the diaries showed that students who spent time in nature on a given day felt more satisfied with life that evening than those who didn’t, and that experiences of awe predicted that boost more than any other positive emotion. Thanks to this pattern, students who spent more days in nature over the two weeks saw greater improvements in well-being during that time."
Why would experiencing awe have these effects? While the answer isn't 100% clear, researchers speculate that experiencing awe may benefit well-being by introducing a "small self...the sense that you are in the presence of something bigger than yourself—which may make past worries or present cares feel less significant by comparison."
In addition to awe, as I mentioned earlier, there are other health benefits to be gained by spending time in nature; physical exercise, camaraderie, gratitude, and, of course, joy. All of which add to an increase in life-satisfaction. The happier we are with our life, the better we feel both physically and emotionally. And, Boy Howdy! I can attest to that after my family trip to the woods on the shores of Land of Lily Pad this weekend.
The biggest takeaway from these studies is that humans need to slow down and make space for that each day. Spending time outside, even if it's just in your own backyard or on the rooftop of your apartment building, spending time with your Mother is good for all of us.
have a happy new week everyone! Please join me back here tomorrow for the always fun monthly Calendar of Special Days. As school nears the end and summer is just around the corner, May promises to offer you loads of great things to celebrate all month long. Until then, I wish you PEACE.