Awe walks can boost positive emotions among older adults

After the age of about 75, people tend to feel more anxiety, sadness and loneliness, and less in the way of positive emotion. Strategies to prevent or at least counteract these deteriorations are badly needed, and new research by a team in the US, published in the journal Emotion, has now identified one apparently promising strategy: so-called “awe walks”.

As Virginia Strum at the University of California and her colleagues note, awe is a positive emotion felt by people “when they are in the presence of something vast that they cannot immediately understand”. A walk through a desert, a beautiful piece of art, a wedding — all of these things, and more, can lead to feelings of awe. Earlier work shows that when we feel awe, our focus shifts from our self to the wider world, leading us to perceive ourselves as being less significant, or “smaller”, and also making us feel more socially connected to our community. This could lead to a rise in positive, prosocial emotions, the team reasoned — and might help to combat typical age-related increases in negative emotions and loneliness.

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