Feeling gratitude triggers neurochemicals in our brain, the kind that elevates our wellbeing and connection to us and others. A great way of designing for gratitude is the experience of AWE... which can be abundantly found in nature. Almost everything you see, listen to, touch, smell and taste in nature creates this feeling of being part of something greater, amazing and eternal. Walking in nature is a great way of enhancing our wellbeing easily.
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Nature enlarges your perspective so you can transcend stress and experience awe. You can discover wonder whenever you spend time outside – from walking through woods to stargazing. No matter how busy you are, you can incorporate some simple ways of engaging with nature into your schedule to enjoy wonder regularly. A wilderness therapy programs research study found people who engage with nature discover wonder that makes them happier and healthier than those who don't. Another study, on collective engagement, showed that enjoying nature strengthens well-being through awe by making people feel connected to something greater than themselves. That awe-inspiring feeling of wonder makes worries seem less significant than they did before, according to the study. Wonder can help people overcome worry by shifting their perspectives and inspiring them to find peace.
The wonder people find in natural settings can lead to many well-being benefits, as well. An analysis of more than 140 research studies on nature and well-being shows that spending time in natural settings can lead significant health benefits, including less stress, better sleep, and a lower risk of many diseases.
So, make time to enjoy nature’s wonders every day. Here are 6 simple ways to discover wonder in nature, that you can incorporate into your busy schedule:
Take a wonder walk. Wonder walks, which are times of intentionally searching for awe while walking, can help you notice the everyday miracles around you – from a musical birdsong to the laughter of children playing. You may discover something that excites you, engages your senses, brings you peace, inspires you, or surprises you.
Savor the sun. Spending time soaking up sunlight is a powerful way to discover wonder. You can enjoy the wondrous colors of a sunrise or sunset. Or, you can simply go outside in the middle of a sunny day to feel enlightened with a renewed sense of hope.
Visit some trees. Immersing yourself in the woods among trees (a well-being practice called forest bathing) or getting close to just a few trees in your neighborhood or a park can bring you into contact with wonder quickly. Just one minute of looking at trees can lead to awe, according to research. While you’re with trees, look up. Many trees are taller and older than humans. Simply being in their presence is enough to feel a humbling sense of awe.
Reflect with water. Water’s reflective qualities and cleansing properties can inspire you to take a fresh look at your life and what you’d like to change. Visit any natural body of water – such as a creek, river, pond, lake, or ocean – to spend some time in reflection. As you gaze at the water’s reflective surface, consider how your life is currently aligning with your values and what positive changes you’d like to make.
Practice expressing gratitude with rocks. Rocks, which symbolize reliability and trustworthiness because of their rock-solid qualities, are useful tools for expressing gratitude. You can sit on a large rock to pray or meditate about what you’re grateful for in your life. Or, you can pick up a rock to take home and decorate with symbols of your gratitude for someone or something.
Have fun with flowers. Flowers can make your mind blossom with a wondrous awareness of joy. They can also inspire you to intentionally pursue fun moments of playfulness and humor. Visit a garden, take a neighborhood walk to search for flowers, or buy some flowers to place in a vase on your work desk to boost your mood.
Even brief times in nature are valuable opportunities to discover the wonder around you. As you get outside from day to day, you can count on enjoying moments of awe.
By Whitney Hopler