It’s been a long, hot summer here in the greater Phoenix area as well as so many other places in our world. I miss my morning walks, which I needed to pause when the low temperatures rose into the upper 80’s to low 90’s. Recently, I got to travel out of town to a cooler area for a few days, and I was so grateful to get to move comfortably around the outdoors again, and to focus on things not only outdoors, but outside myself.
Early in the pandemic, I learned about “awe walks.” Maybe you have heard of them as well? An awe walk is a simple, convenient, no-cost yet powerful way to care for yourself not only physically, but mentally. It’s a walk where you mindfully shift your focus to what is going on outside of you and all around you. On an awe walk you can invite yourself to listen, see, smell, feel (and sometimes even taste) the world around you. In my neighborhood, I like to walk along the canal and see what kind of birds are there. Is this the season for new ducklings? Is that a turtle I see resting on that rock? Oooh, what’s that smell? My neighbor must be grilling dinner. Aaah, I love the feel of the breeze on my skin. I like the sound my steps make on the gravel, and the plop I hear from the fish when they briefly jump out of the water. I always hear those fish way more than I get to actually see them.
Awe walks allow us to escape from our houses and take some time away from the mail, the chores, and the other routines that await us. They allow us to stretch our legs and get our blood flowing. They also allow us time to escape our inner world of worrying and planning—the exhausting way we can focus so much on the past and the future. An awe walk invites us to be in the present, even if it’s just a 15 minute stroll around the block. A research study from a few years ago showed that awe walks increased feelings such as compassion and gratitude. This makes sense because getting outside of ourselves more makes us more able to connect with others and appreciate the world around us.
There are many ways to exercise mindfulness, and to quiet my busy mind. I have tried other healthy practices during this sweltering summer, but I can’t wait for the temperatures to drop a few more degrees so that I can get back to my morning awe walks — even if I have to get up a little earlier to fit them in. Are you with me? In the meantime, stay cool and be well!
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