Planning For It

When you Might Use This Practice

  • When you need to bolster your own well-being or well-being of your students
  • To help expand your or your students’ creativity and self-transcendent thinking
  • As a daily practice for self-care and inspiration


Time Required

  • 5 – 10 minutes per day, for one week




Learning Objectives

  • Staff or students will:
    • Reflect daily on moments of awe elicited by nature
    • Notice the impact of focusing on and experiencing awe
    • Experience benefits of connecting with nature


Additional Supports


Character Strengths

  • Appreciation of beauty and excellence
  • Spirituality
  • Transcendence


SEL Competencies

  • Self-awareness
  • Social awareness


Mindfulness Components

  • Open awareness

How To Do It

Reflection Before the Practice

  • Awe is the feeling we get when we witness something vast or something that challenges our understanding of the world or universe.
  • Reverence and awe for nature is one of the most accessible and recognizable elicitors of awe. Imagine standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon or staring up at a sky filled with stars on a clear night. Or even contemplate the deep bond one makes with a pet or the refreshing smell and rejuvenation of a summer rain.
  • Can you recall any moments you have had in nature when you felt these feelings of awe or wonder?

The Practice

The invitation is to commit to one week of nature-based awe-journaling. This includes seeking moments in or interactions with nature, then reflecting briefly on how it felt to absorb yourself in those moments. This practice can also be used with your students.

Step 1: Connect with nature, taking the time to experience it with all five senses (five minutes, or longer, if you can!)

  • Here are some suggestions for ways to elicit awe through nature:
    • Take an “awe walk” through a park, garden, or a “forest bath” walk.
    • Play mindfully with a pet.
    • Simply walk outside and look up for a while, at the clouds, listening to the birds or nature around you.
    • Look out the window, paying attention to the weather. Watch the rain drops fall from clouds thousands of miles away or our giant sun casting small shadows on the ground.
    • If you cannot get or look outside, visualize standing in nature. Maybe your bare feet in grass or near crashing waves, imagining the smell of the grass or seaweed and the textures on your toes.
    • Do a virtual nature walk using one of these videos or audio files:


Step 2: Awe journal (5 minutes)

  • Pick your favourite notebook, a document on your computer, or this Awe Journal Template to reflect on your experience.
    • What was the nature you witnessed, interacted with, or thought about?
    • What were, if any, bodily or emotional sensations you noticed?
    • Did any insights occur to you during this nature experience?
    • If you didn’t manage to have a nature-filled awe moment today, what were the barriers to getting outside or taking a moment with nature?


Optional Extensions

  • You can draw about your awe experiences, rather than write. Make this journal your own!
  • Consider doing this practice for longer than one week or more times each day. Notice if your experience added benefits when you spend more time with awe.
  • This practice could also be done with your students, as a daily or weekly journal for them.
  • Learn more about nature journaling with Wild Wonder. Download a free copy of How to Teach Nature Journaling, created by John Muir Laws and Emilie Lygren. You can also download a free copy of their free zine which includes helpful resources to get started nature journaling for new students age six and up: Your Quick Start Guide to Nature Journaling.



Practice inspired by works of Dr. Keltner and colleagues

Reflection After the Practice

  • How do you feel now after paying attention to awe-eliciting nature moments for a week?
  • Do you notice any changes in your emotions, thoughts, or well-being?
  • If this resonated for you, can you think of ways to seek more awe on a daily basis?

Reflections for students (great as a Think-Pair-Share exercise):

  • Let’s take a moment to share about the nature awe journaling we did this week.
  • Do you notice any changes in your emotions, thoughts, or well-being after awe journaling this week?
    Was it easy or hard to find an awe moment in nature every day? If it was hard, what might be some things that got in the way?
  • Did you come up with new ideas for finding awe in nature – beyond the list that was shared? Can we share as a group some other things that brought us awe this week?

The Research Behind It

Evidence That It Works

In a study of 119 undergraduate students (75% female), participants kept a diary every day for two weeks of their positive emotions (including awe) and well-being, as well as a written description of one daily experience of awe or positive emotion. The written descriptions were examined by researchers for content about nature experiences. The study found that the people who had daily experiences of nature felt more awe, and, as a result, increased their well-being.


Why Does it Matter?

Exposure to nature has long been associated with well-being for both adults and young people. Similarly, awe, which can be elicited by nature, has been associated with many positive benefits, such as reductions in stress and promotion of mental well-being.

Specifically, in a study of 610 adolescents (ages 13 – 16) in central China, researchers found that students who reported frequently feeling awe, experienced more mindful thinking and meaning in life, and subsequently reported greater life satisfaction.

In addition, connecting with and feeling a sense of awe for nature has also been shown to lead to greater respect for nature and more sustainable and ecological behaviors.

“In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.”
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