“Persistent disappointment.” Persistent disappointment. Persistent. Disappointment. What do those two words bring up for you? The manager of wellbeing at a law firm recently referred to our experience with COVID that way. Boy, did that resonate with me! The multiple waves and variants over the last 22 months have led to numerous cancellations, postponements, and events transitioning from in person to virtual, with no end to the uncertainty. We are careful not to count on scheduled events, particularly if travel is involved. These accumulated disappointments have taken their toll and become part of the background noise that impact our day to day moods, attitudes and interactions.
What helps you cope with this persistent disappointment? Some things that are helpful for me include: identifying things I can control and letting go of those that I can’t, acknowledging and processing my feelings with someone, jogging, playing in my Zoom guitar group, meditating, and pizza… I also have started doing something new that is proving to be helpful, a 15 minute awe walk. What exactly is awe? According to the Greater Good Science Center:
Sources of awe include people, nature, music, art, architecture and religion/spirituality. Taking an awe walk at least once a week can broaden our perspective leading us to be less stuck in our worries and anxieties. Personally, sometimes a walk isn’t necessary and looking out the window can do the trick, such as when I see a tiny hummingbird at our feeder or taking in the breath taking majesty of an enormous tree.
A recent study found that regular awe walks can boost positive feelings. In the study, 60 adults took weekly 15-minute awe walks for eight weeks. Those assigned to the awe walk (as opposed to those in the regular walk control group) reported increased experiences of awe and increased compassion and gratitude. One participant noticed “the beautiful fall colors and the absence of them amidst the evergreen forest ... how the leaves were no longer crunchy underfoot because of the rain and how the walk was more spongy ... the wonder that a small child feels as they explore their expanding world.” Those in the control group were more inwardly focused. For example, one person was thinking about all of the things they needed to do before a vacation.
Awe walks are simple, free and doable. When and where will you experience awe?
Sturm, V. E., Datta, S., Roy, A. R. K., Sible, I. J., Kosik, E. L., Veziris, C. R., Chow, T. E., Morris, N. A., Neuhaus, J., Kramer, J. H., Miller, B. L., Holley, S. R., & Keltner, D. (2020). Big smile, small self: Awe walks promote prosocial positive emotions in older adults. Emotion. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1037emo0000876
Weller, N. (2020). 'Awe walks' boost emotional well-being. San Francisco, CA: Weill Institute for Neurosciences.