One Good Thing: find awe in nature for a greater sense of calm

Welcome back to One Good Thing, Stylist’s Sunday series that asks experts in mental health for the one good thing we can all do to boost our wellbeing.

This week, we asked Professor Dacher Keltner, a professor of psychology at UC Berkeley and author of the new book Awe: The Transformative Power Of Everyday Wonder, for his One Good Thing.

Hi Dacher! If you could recommend one good thing everyone can do to improve their mental health, what would it be? 

To get outdoors and find awe in nature. The source of that awe can come in any form, be it towering trees or flowers that have popped up in cracks in the concrete.

That’s interesting. Why?

Because during all the trials and tribulations of my life, including watching my brother leave this earth young, getting outdoors in search of awe-inspiring nature has grounded me, soothed me and uplifted me like few other things.

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OK, but how exactly does that work?

I find 30 to 60 minutes and wander, following where awe might be. This wandering and discovery leads me to experience unexpected everyday awe – a sunset, a blooming bush, kids goofing around in line to play tennis or someone playing an instrument in a park.

That sounds surprisingly simple. Tell us more – what are the benefits?

There are many. Finding awe in nature can bring you calm, better attention, a sense of ease, a feeling of being connected to something larger than the self and greater perspective on daily stresses.

How can I make sure I’m doing it properly?

My one good thing is undermined by things like walking too fast, being too focused on the walking itself, using your smartphone or watch and not directing your eyes to the small and vast wonders around you.

Cool! And how has doing awe walks changed your life? 

It has brought me so many things, including continual calm, joy, beauty, a sense of place, faith in other humans, a sense of community, and a recognition/reverence of the beauty and mystery of the natural world.

Awe: The Transformative Power Of Everyday Wonder is out now

Frame Of Mind is Stylist’s home for all things mental health and the mind. From expert advice on the small changes you can make to improve your wellbeing to first-person essays and features on topics ranging from autism to antidepressants, we’ll be exploring mental health in all its forms. You can check out the series home page to get started.

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