Why awesome natural beauty drops the jaw and lifts the spirit



Staff member
Why awesome natural beauty drops the jaw and lifts the spirit - Psyche

When my family moved from the United States to the north of England a few years ago, we soon adopted the local custom of going for a weekend walk in the Peak District National Park. These ‘walks’ typically involve a semi-strenuous hike to the summit of a not-quite mountain, where one enjoys a homemade sandwich while taking in a panoramic view of the surrounding scenery. Depending on the conditions and location, you might enjoy jagged cliff faces, rolling hills or deep valleys. If you’re lucky, you can sometimes be swept up in a feeling of awe that’s difficult to convey to others.

These walks are now a staple for our family of four. But during the COVID-19 pandemic, for me personally, they’ve become more than this. As strange as it might sound, these rambles have been an irreplaceable mechanism for maintaining a sense of connectedness to other people beyond my family, and have helped me maintain a spiritual vitality that could otherwise have flickered and died in these times of social distancing.

It turns out that I’m not alone. Psychological research increasingly reveals that experiences of awe in nature can boost both our feeling of connectedness to others and also a sense of spiritual fulfilment. What’s more, this work illuminates how all of us, whether religious or not, can actively harness the power of natural experiences to improve these dimensions of our lives. A key fulcrum in the story connecting nature, transformation and spirituality is the emotion of awe.