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Have You Tried an Awe Walk?

If you’re like most people, you may have trouble getting motivated to exercise. This may be true even if you like the type of exercise you’re thinking about and how you’ll feel better afterward.

This is something I experience, too. Sometimes I have a hard time getting myself out the door for a walk, even though I enjoy walks. I think it’s because a subconscious tug-of-war is going on. Part of me wants to go for a walk, but part of me also feels rebellious because I know it’s what I’m “supposed” to do.

But what if you focus on something other than exercise? That can help break you out of the indecisiveness – and one way of doing this is going for an awe walk.

Seeking out awe

I heard the term “awe walk” on an episode of the On Being podcast with Krista Tippett. She was talking to professor of psychology Dacher Keltner, author of the new book Awe: The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How It Can Transform Your Life.

Keltner has been studying happiness for over 20 years, and he said that the secret to a happy life is to “find awe.”

Sometimes we’ll stumble on things that fill us with awe. This could be something amazing that a person does, a piece of incredible music, something in nature, or more.

But you don’t have to wait and hope to accidentally find these things. You can also seek them out deliberately by going out with a focus to find what amazes you. These could be big things, but you could also be looking for small things.

That’s what an awe walk is. To walk somewhere with a focus on what might amaze you.

My awe walk

So, I tried this last weekend. I went for a walk in a familiar place, Evergreen Cemetery, but I looked for something that really struck me.

That’s when I started noticing the puddles. It was a warm afternoon, so the snow was melting and creating puddles on the paths, reflecting trees, headstones, clouds, and more. That’s when it occurred to me how amazing puddles are.

From a distance, it looked almost as if they gave a glimpse into another world. In those little patches of water, the reflected sky and clouds looked infinite, as if they went on forever, even though in most cases the water was only an inch or two deep.

That got me thinking about how amazing water is in general. Not long before, those puddles had been in solid form as ice or snow, but now they had transformed into liquid. And in the heat of the afternoon sun, some of those puddles would dry up, the water evaporating into the air, eventually returning to the clouds. Then they’d travel and fall again as water or snow somewhere else.

Reflecting on that not only filled me with awe but also quieted the subconscious, rebellious part of my mind that wanted to object to the walk. I knew I wasn’t walking because I was “supposed” to be but because it was a beautiful day and focusing on the awe left me filled with deep joy and peace.

Where can you find awe?

You don’t need to go for a walk to look for awe, of course. You can take a bike ride, go skiing, take a drive, or do any number of other things. One advantage of a walk, though, is that you’re going slowly enough to notice things you might otherwise miss.

The goal, no matter your activity, is to pay attention to what surprises, delights, and amazes you. And you might find that once you start looking, you’ll find awe in more places than you’d expect.


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