The great outdoors inspiring that special feeling of Awe and igniting something inside of us

Those epic landscape views can't help but install a feeling of awe in us, which has many benefits to our well-being, happiness and health.

I love the outdoors, I think that’s pretty obvious if you follow my stuff, such as this blog or my social channels haha. I can’t get enough of it - and whenever I can I’ll get outside, whether it’s a local walk by the coast, in a park or woodland. When I have more time, I’ll take off on a road-trip or wild camp to places further afield - often to places close to where I live in Northern England, such as The Lake District, Yorkshire Dales, Northumberland or Scotland. 

Why do I love the outdoors so much? Multiple reasons really, but generally it's because of the benefits to my mental & physical health. I’ve wrote previously about these proven benefits - such as:

‘5 reasons why walking and being in nature is good for us’ 

‘The transformative power of wild camping’

‘Wild swimming health benefits’

Spectacular landscapes and the feeling of Awe

One of the reasons I enjoy the outdoors so much, that I’d like to expand on in this blog post, is that when I witness spectacular natural landscapes - I feel what I guess can be described as a sense of awe - those 'wow' moments - those breath taking moments. I’m just mesmerised by vast and majestic and impressive and dramatic natural landscapes, which is added to by ephemeral atmospheric conditions such as stunning natural light, sunrises or sunsets or spectacular weather conditions like cloud formations, inversions or snowy wonderlands. I’m an amateur photographer (and professional designer) and I'm drawn to the visual and I seek out the most impressive landscapes and viewpoints (a lot of which I try to share and help others find on this blog) so I guess I set myself up to locate and see the most special views.

When I feel, what I’m coming to understand is a sense of awe at these impressive natural vistas (I struggle to put into words how I feel exactly), I just feel a tremendous sense of satisfaction and an uplift in my way of being & feeling and I guess a sense of joy (I very rarely say the word joy in day to day life - but joy seems to be the best word I can find!) 

What I now find is that this sense of ‘Awe’ is becoming viewed an an increasingly important state, backed by studies and evidence. Awe is described as that sense of wonder, reverence, and amazement sparked by encountering something extraordinary, vast or beyond comprehension. It's a profound emotional response that transcends ordinary experiences, evoking feelings of insignificance yet connectedness to something larger than oneself. 

It seems that a feelings of Awe for many often arises from witnessing natural wonders, but also immense beauty, exceptional human achievements, music, art, moments that challenge our understanding of the world, leaving a lasting impression that expands our perspective and ignites a sense of curiosity and humility. Research is showing certain benefits of awe - with the main ones listed below:

Awe can evoke feelings of insignificance yet connectedness to something larger than oneself. 

Proven benefits associated with experiencing awe:

  • Enhanced Well-Being: Awe has been linked to increased feelings of well-being and happiness, both in the moment but also into the future
  • Increased Happiness: Awe-inducing experiences are correlated with higher levels of life satisfaction and happiness.
  • Reduced Stress: Encountering awe-inspiring moments can decrease stress levels and promote relaxation, reduce the perception of personal problems, providing relief from daily stressors.
  • Improved Health: Some studies suggest that awe may have positive effects on physical health and immune function.
  • Boosted Creativity: Awe encourages a broader, more flexible thinking style, fostering creativity and innovation.
  • Heightened Compassion: Experiencing awe often leads to increased prosocial behavior and empathy towards others.
  • Greater Humility: Awe can cultivate a sense of humility, helping individuals feel more interconnected with others and the world.
  • Enhanced Perspective: It broadens one's perspective, encouraging a focus beyond the self and promoting a sense of purpose.
  • Boosted Curiosity: Encountering awe-inspiring moments tends to fuel curiosity and a desire for exploration and learning.

So there’s the benefits of awe, I know I certainly feel happier and less stressed when outdoors, and these other benefits are why I personally will try and put myself in more experiences, situations and places where I may feel a sense of awe.  I’m not sure if everyone will feel the sense of awe when in the outdoors, but it seems many of us feel it when we see amazing sights such as sunsets, and even appreciate the views that are captured in photos, so  the natural world inspiring awe does seem a common human experience.

What’s the point of this blog post? I guess firstly its just to introduce that notion of awe in case it is something that you’ve not come across before, but more importantly to put yourself in situations where you might feel it and benefit from it.

A good start would be to seek out those impressive natural landscapes, Slow down, pause, be present and just observe. And see what happens and how you feel. I’m pretty sure you’ll also feel the uplift too, and feel that sense of happiness if not some of the other benefits of awe listed above.

Happy Exploring!

Post by Stuart Hodgson 
'The Hiking Photographer'

I share my adventures as I love the outdoors and it's spectacular natural landscapes and want to help others get outdoors too. Being outside can also bring many physical and mental health benefits to us and I want others to reap these benefits too. I hope you enjoy the blog and it inspires you to plan a trip!

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Thanks for taking an interest in my blog, all comments and questions are welcome! Best, Stuart

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