How and Why to Build an Outdoor Awe Habit (Dr. Dacher Keltner, awe expert, professor and author)

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Dacher Keltner Humans Outside podcast

When was the last time you experienced a sense of awe in nature? Feeling awe is something many outdoor users chase. But can you even define the experience of awe? Or is it one of things where you just know it when you see it? Where can you best find it? And what are the benefits of spending time outside purposefully chasing the feeling?

Professor Dr. Dacher Keltner joins us in this episode to tackle those questions and more. Leaning on research and advice included in his new book “Awe: the new science of wonder and how it can transform your life,” Dacher guides us into an understanding of the what, how and why of chasing awe outside. Listen now.

Connect with this episode:

Read “Awe: the new science of wonder and how it can transform your life(affiliate link)

Visit Dr. Dacher Keltner’s website

Learn about the Greater Good Science Center

Join the Humans Outside Challenge
Follow Humans Outside on Instagram
Follow Humans Outside on Facebook

Some of the good stuff:

[2:52] Dacher Keltner’s favorite outdoor space

[3:35] How Dacher became someone who likes to go outside

[6:47] Can we define awe?
[9:12] How to experience awe in ways that are not specific to going outside

[11:52] How the “eight wonders of life” are all tied to nature anyway

[13:34] Do humans have a need for wild awe?

[15:36] Why don’t we talk about the importance of awe?

[20:01] Can you create an awe habit?

[21:26] Is there such a thing as an awe muscle?

[23:34] What does noticing have to do with it?

[26:28] The difference between “awe” and “wonder”

[28:04] Tips for finding and keeping an awe habit

[30:18] Dacher’s favorite moment of outdoor awe

Some of the good stuff:

[2:52] Dacher Keltner’s favorite outdoor space

[3:35] How Dacher became someone who likes to go outside

[6:47] Can we define awe?

[9:12] How to experience awe in ways that are not specific to going outside

[11:52] How the “eight wonders of life” are all tied to nature anyway

[13:34] Do humans have a need for wild awe?

[15:36] Why don’t we talk about the importance of awe?

[20:01] Can you create an awe habit?

[21:26] Is there such a thing as an awe muscle?

[23:34] What does noticing have to do with it?

[26:28] The difference between “awe” and “wonder”

[28:04] Tips for finding and keeping an awe habit

[30:18] Dacher’s favorite moment of outdoor awe

Connect with this episode:

Listen to this episode on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.

The following is an edited transcript of this episode of Humans Outside.

Amy Bushatz: No matter who you are or where you go, heading outside even for a few minutes is always worth it. I’m your host, Amy Bushatz, and here at Humans Outside, we’re using the Humans Outside 365 Challenge to build a life around spending time in nature while hearing from fascinating outdoor minded. As a journalist for 19 years, I’ve let curiosity be my guide.

After my husband’s injuries from military service, we started looking for a better way to live. That’s why we moved sight unseen to Alaska to see if an outdoor focused life was the answer. Since September, 2017, I’ve personally spent at least 20 consecutive minutes outside every single day no matter what to explore how nature can change my life.

Ready to hear from experts and outdoor lovers who make heading into nature just a part of who they are while we work to do the same? Let’s go.

What is happening to your brain, emotions and being when you experience something amazing outside? And why should we find ways to seek or make room for more of these experiences? The feeling I’m talking about can best be described as awe. You might think about finding it when you see something big that puts you in a context with the outdoor world. Think gazing on the Grand Canyon, standing on top of a mountain peak or taking in a huge waterfall.

But the feeling can be found in other moments too, even in simple things like experiencing your child in an incredible moment of their own or watching a bird soar through the sky. Making room for these experiences, chasing them, creating them, or simply allowing them by going outside can have a profound impact on your inside life.

That’s something you’ve probably gotten a taste of as you’ve built your own daily nature habit. It’s something I’ve experienced myself over my 2000 days outside, and it’s something today’s guest wrote about in his new book, Awe: the New Science of Everyday Wonder and How it Can Transform Your.

Professor, Dr. Dacher Keltner is one of the world’s foremost emotion scientists. He’s a professor of psychology at UC Berkeley, and the director of the Greater Good Science Center. And he was the scientific advisor behind Pixar’s Inside Out, which is one of my absolute favorite movies because of the accessible way, it has helped me a full grown adult understand my own emotions.

Actually, just hearing the theme song cues me up to cry like a baby. So maybe let’s not talk about that very much today.

Dacher is gonna clue us into some of the science of awe, with a view towards why and how we can take practical steps to chase more of it in our own lives. Dacher welcome to Humans Outside.

Dacher Keltner: It, it’s good to be with you, Amy, but I wish we were outside, so.

Amy Bushatz: Well, let’s scene set a little bit because we love to imagine ourselves with our guests in their favorite outdoor space. So if that was true and we were hanging outside with you somewhere that you really love and value, where would we be?

Dacher Keltner: Oh, well, High Sierras, you know, Evolution Valley in the Sierras or on the Berkeley Campus uh we have a couple of streams running through it with redwoods and there are couple of spots there where you can just sit and watch the water, be near the, the redwood trees. So I’m pretty lucky

Amy Bushatz: I grew up near there. It is verifiably beautiful. I’ve seen it. , I, grew up near UCSC. Same idea, right? Just this sort of coastal mountain range that, or coastal forest that is just to die for. So I can easily imagine ourselves with you there. What a lovely spot to hang out.

So can you kick us off by telling us about just a little bit about your background and how you became someone who likes to go outside and spend time with streams in redwoods?

Dacher Keltner: Yeah. , I, uh, grew up in California, well, I was actually born in Mexico, grew up in California, and first in Los Angeles uh, and then in the foothill, in the hills in a place called Laurel Canyon. And then later in the foothills of the Sierras. And it was interesting because the first reason why I love the outdoors and if figures prominently in the book rightfully so, is my family my mom was a, a college teacher, had the summers off, and we did these wild camping trips in the late sixties.

One of them we drove straight into the Colorado Rockies. And my dad loves camping. And, you know, for a month we camped , and I, I think about that today. Like, God, I, I never did that with my daughters. Uh, So that’s one. And then when we moved to the foothills of the Sierras, we had five acres.

It was a pretty rural town at 600 elevation, you know, kinda these rolling California hills and, I just wandered outside all the time, just, outside dirt roads looking at dark skies, and I just came to love the outdoors. And then with my own children we camp ritualistically at a a, a place in the Sierras that my wife her family is part of.

And then I just start backpacking, you and probably really passionately 15 years ago, maybe 20 years ago. And you know, when, when people ask me, like, just gimme one phrase to make me happy, and I teach so many people happiness these days, or I have a really, really depressed son, and what do I do?

And I, the phrase that always comes to mind is like, get outdoors. Just get outdoors. So I’ve, I’ve been lucky, just to have a pretty long standing relationship to being outdoors.

Amy Bushatz: Yeah. I grew up visiting a little tiny lake in the Sierras called Sardine Lake.

Dacher Keltner: Ah, where is that?

Amy Bushatz: So it is not terribly far from Gold and S ilver Lakes you go up past trucky, up, north Truckee and you head up past this little turnoff. It’s a little store. Gosh, I don’t even know if it’s still there. Bassett’s. And you, and you head up there and it is tucked back beneath a mountain called the Sierra Butte. Of course, as a kid, always joking that it was the Sierra, Butt. That’s what kids do. Yeah. And there’s a fire tower watch tower up there and, we hike up there, but we went up there every summer and my father went up there every summer when he was growing up and it was, oh, just the, the place that you go and to get away for that week, but it becomes this thing that you go to.

Right. And what I wanna do, and what I hope we do here at Humans Outside is to make going outside something that, as you were mentioning for the people you talk to, go outside every day and be a part, have that be a part of your personal ecosystem. It’s not a destination. It’s not a vacation one week a year. It’s just part of who you are. That’s the goal. Yeah. Right.

Dacher Keltner: I could not agree more.

Amy Bushatz: So we’re gonna be talking about awe today. Well, by the the Sierra Butte full of awe. Okay. So maybe you could just start by telling us what is awe what, like what is this emotion that you’re describing? Can you color that in for us a little bit?

Dacher Keltner: Sure. It’s, it’s a tough one because, people, people just intuitively believe that awe can’t be defined. You can’t put words to it, you can’t study it. It’s only recently been studied scientifically. So, so let’s start with a definition. And I really ground this definition in different philosophers.

In particular Edmund Burke, which is awe is an emotion that you have, which is a fleeting subjective feeling in response to things that are vast and mysterious, that you can’t make sense of, right? So vast means it’s large. Physically it could be large, semantically like, wow, that was a, that was an amazing idea.

And, and it can also be large or vast in terms of time. Often people, if you have a memory from your childhood suddenly surface, you’ll feel awe like, wow, that was so long ago, right?. Or when I’m near a redwood and the, the time of the redwood tree, it’s alive for a thousand years strikes me in its vastness.

And then what mystery means is I just can’t understand it. It’s a I have all this knowledge. I look at the world through the lens of that knowledge and then what I see in the moment of awe, I, I can’t make sense of. And just to continue to, you know, it’s interesting. I often get the question, Amy: how do I know I’ve had an experience of awe? And, and, and it’s a really good question. It’s actually a very deep question, but, we’ve done a lot of work, and, and awe tends to be accompanied by tears, by goosebumps rushing up your back and your arms, right, uh, by warmth in the chest, a lump in the throat.

And these are all really interesting neurophysiological responses. And also things like, I feel kind of small, my concerns aren’t that significant. There’s this vast thing out in the world that I could be part of. So, so that’s how we approach awe.

Amy Bushatz: Mm-hmm. So I think we tend to or at least I tend to peg awe in terms of nature, right?

Like, like when I talked about seeing the Grand Canyon or being on a mountaintop. You talk about other kinds of awes. So can you give us some maybe concrete examples of situations, and you do go over this in book, but just for the, for context for our listeners, situations or experiences that are not outdoor vastness, right? That could be an experience of awe, just sort of widen the lens of what awe is. Outside of that, outsideness.

Dacher Keltner: Yeah, that was really I think one of our more important discoveries. We surveyed people from 26 different countries, and all we did is we said, tell us a story of awe, like what made you, when did you encounter a vast mystery that made you feel this emotion? And, and what we did uncovered, Amy is uh, What I call in the book um, eight Wonders of Life, which are, you know, and, and they’ll be intuitive and they tell an important story, which is it’s not just nature. So it’s the moral beauty of people, their kindness and courage, collective movement with others. Dance and singing and out of athletic competition nature are kind of the most common.

Then music, visual design, and spirituality, right? Obviously religious experiences, mystical experiences. And then finally, two more unusual ones categories, which are big ideas, right? So, Ralph Waldo Emerson, when he went outdoors and was struck by nature, he, he had all these big ideas about, the soul and how, what nature teaches us.

So kind of intellectual awe. You may be struck by the idea of democracy or, protest or what have you. And then finally life and death. Mm-hmm. , People, around the world when, when things are born or are growing, you mentioned a, a young child and being marveling at a child, that’s kind of like life emerging.

And then when people leave when they pass away we feel awe. So, so we, nature is fundamental. It’s, I think it’s one of the two big sources of awe. But, but there are others that we should keep an eye on.

Amy Bushatz: Yeah. So I, I did not think of this when I was reading your book, but while you are describing these things, it occurs to me that all of these eight wonders are things that I can find outside individually. So,

Dacher Keltner: Exactly right.

Amy Bushatz: This, that structural design I’m thinking of when I look at a mountain. Especially in the wintertime because the snow has a way of highlighting these things that topography and the fractal, like, there’s like, triangles that come out on these mountains is just incredible the way that you can see this geography on these mountain scapes.

It does, it strikes awe. And uh, you mentioned life and death. Hello, nature, . Yeah, exactly. That’s it, right? That’s, that’s everything that’s there. And so it’s just uh, it strikes me that while you, and we’ll talk about working to, or practicing finding awe in nature. But it strikes me that all eight of these categories are themselves tied to different experiences in nature. Yeah.

Dacher Keltner: Being outdoors. No, I think it’s profound when you, one of the things that I did in the book is I went to what I called awe spots. Just like places where there would be awe and, and a lot of it is outdoors, as you say. Like contemplative practices outdoors, meditation, outdoors, yoga outdoors, listening to music. Europe has great traditions of, you know, you know, community orchestras, playing outdoors, dancing outdoors, sports of outdoors. So yeah, it’s- a political protest, right? When we’re inspired by somebody’s courage that happens outdoors. So yeah, I think, I think it’s fair to say on, on balance, you’ll find more awe outdoors. And it’s a good point.

Amy Bushatz: Hey humans, just a quick break to remind you that if you wanna build your own outdoor habit, the Humans Outside 365 Challenge is a great way to get started. Cool And exclusive Challenge swag, including a finisher, metal, and decal is waiting for. All you need to do is visit Don’t get left out. Go to to learn more now. Okay, back to the show.

So we’re talking about what, what awe is. Why is awe important? Do humans have a measurable need for this awe and, and when we talk about, when you talk about awe outside, you used the term I think, wild awe. So do humans have a measurable need, like internally to make them tick, for wild awe? And if so, how is that measured? How do you put the pulse, your finger on that pulse?

Dacher Keltner: Yeah I do think we have a, a need for awe and you know, and in particular wild awe. The awe for nature. And I would say the awe for the arts and, and other, and certain kinds of, and social connection to humans. We assess that in a couple of different ways where we make the case for a need for wild awe.

You know, one is, it just part of the developmental unfolding of a human being. And, and kids for the most part, gravitate to nature. They just explore it, they experiment with it. They want to be in it. They love, like Charles Darwin did, getting their hands dirty, looking at worms. And that is pretty reliable in how children develop, and that tells us there’s something fundamental in the evolution of our, our relationship of the self to nature.

The second is, is there a pretty clear physiological pattern that is grounded or rooted in our gene, our genes, and different neurophysiological systems. And, there’s a terrific review by Ming Kuo from 2015 where, you know, you just look at what nature does to the body, what scents due to the body out in nature.

The smell of a tree or flower, the sound of running water activates your vagus nerve. It shifts your vein chemistry. So that tells us our bodies are wired to respond to nature. Our bodies aren’t wired to respond to computers, or chairs or the like, but they really respond powerfully to nature.

And the third is just the wellbeing question. And health. Does it benefit you, right? If we have a need for something like protein-rich food, I’ll just be healthier if I get it. And, and that one is a slam dunk, and you’ve probably referred to it on your show, Amy, like just getting outta nature, doing forest bathing, being near parks, you know, looking at the sky.

All of that benefits you all the way down to this, your cells, right? So it tells us we are, we have a need that is wired into us for nature.

Amy Bushatz: So often when we talk about those things that you just gave the example of like, oh, going outside is good for you. It makes you happier, it makes your brain work better.

We, and all those things are important and there’s so many more of them than I just mentioned. But what we don’t talk about is that awe factor. Why is that? Like, why is that something that we just kind of glaze over when we’re talking about the benefits of, of going outside? And, and maybe a little bit more on what is specifically that awe factor, flipping that around. What are the benefits of that awe, regularly of developing a habit where you’re, you know, not only looking at the night sky because of all the other things that are doing it for you, but also specifically for the awe.

Dacher Keltner: Yeah, yeah. The reason we ha we don’t invoke awe, although that’s changing.

I think this book will put it into the common conversation about the benefits of different things. Um, you know, Scientists hadn’t studied awe for a long time. They thought it, you couldn’t study it. People often, like when you say the word awe, they kind of think of new age stuff, or maybe it’s a guru or you know, or it’s, it sounds sort of religious.

And, and as a result, we haven’t thought about the, the critical question you’re asking, which is, how, like, how can I live a good life and what is a, a compass to live that good life? And what does awe bring me? And awe brings people a lot in terms of health benefits, mind benefits, emotion.

And so, that is really changing. You know, a couple of examples, in this review of the benefits of nature by Ming Kuo she charts different pathways why getting outdoors is good for your nervous system. And she now says awe is one. In the psychedelic literature there’s a central hypothesis emerging that these serotonin altering chemicals, why do they help us when they do? Awe. Right, it’s like, wow, I feel amazed. I’m, I don’t care about my stress anymore. So awe is emerging at last, it’s, it’s been too long.

Amy Bushatz: It’s interesting. You, like you say that maybe we don’t do it because of the religious aspect. It’s one, it strikes me as one of these outcomes that sort of transcends, well, it, it comes to both sides of that religious, if you wanna have polarization, right?

Because on the one, you know, yogi kind of thing, well, the right, like the conservative side would be very against that idea, right? But on the conservative side, feeling awe of God is like, that’s the goal. That you are in awe of God’s awesome power and creativity Himself and, and creating the world and that sort of thing.

Like that is in fact there’s I went to a very conservative college and I remember having discussions about maybe we should stop using the word “awesome” in normal conversation because that should be reserved for talking about God. And so it’s really, from a spiritual standpoint, it’s really like the transcends both of those sides to the point where you think that it would be able to find common ground around studying that and, and quantifying it in a way to like bring, bring more of it. And I just think that’s so funny that that’s not true. People.

Dacher Keltner: Yeah. Well you know, and that was really, I write about that, cuz one of the main sources of awe is, is spirituality and religion, conversion and Hinduism. And it’s in all of the great traditions, right? This transcendent experience.

And that was really the mission of William James, which, he is a great American thinker, very influential in my field, and he wrote a very influential book, the Varieties of Religious Experience where he has central mission was pluralism, right? The key to real, one key to religion is our feeling of being in relation to the divine, awe. And, but, and all cultures cultivate that, and we have different gods and practices and rituals. And James tried to put them all into one f, level. Said they’re all great. Right? And I hope, I agree and, and I hope you know that maybe, you know, the discussion of spirituality as it relates to awe will just inch us away from the polarized debates about fundamentalism and atheism and so forth. Just to honor, it’s a very human thing to feel spiritual.

Amy Bushatz: Yeah. Is it possible to teach yourself to feel more awe? Like to make this

Dacher Keltner: Oh, yeah.

Amy Bushatz: A habit of practice?

Dacher Keltner: Yeah. You know, It’s, it’s striking to me you know, in part your mission is in keeping with this, which is, you think of all the ways in which we try to improve our health, right, and our minds and we meditate. And that’s hard. And you know, we go try folk dancing or singing and that’s tricky. I tried to play the guitar, couldn’t do it, but awe is easy. Finding awe is actually easy. And we’ve developed a bunch of practices at the Greater Good Science Center about awe, you know, where go for an all walk, go look for awe in your walking.

Look at the sky. Check out the sunset. Touch a tree. Tell people a story of awe from your childhood, right? Talk about if you’re work colleagues, talk about something awe-inspiring that’s happening at work, and share stories. Listen to music. So, it’s interesting, Amy, you know, there’s so many paradoxes about awe.

One is like, you can’t define it. You can define it. We shouldn’t write about it. Everybody writes it. And you can’t go find it. Well, actually, it’s really easy to find. And I call that everyday awe in the book, our studies suggest people feel awe two to three times a week. And you can improve that. You can elevate that. And so there are a lot of ways to do it that I write about in the book.

Amy Bushatz: Is it like any other habit where you, the more you practice it, the easier it gets to practice it?

Dacher Keltner: I think so. In the only data on that our, our awe walk study, we had people who were 75 years old or older, take a regular weekly walk looking for awe or doing a really vigorous walk. And we found that not only did they benefit psychologically, the awe walk people, but they felt more awe with each walk. Right? It’s almost like, oh, I’m, I’m training my mind to get access to this basic emotion of awe and, and then it arises, right, in surprising ways, so, yeah I think you can cultivate awe pretty robustly.

Amy Bushatz: Yeah. So it’s a practice of, I don’t know, it’s, it’s like any sort of intentionality, right? That the more you practice noticing something, the more you notice something. If I was to go for a walk in the woods and be intentional about, taking in my context among the trees tomorrow, perhaps I would notice that even more than I do now. And then that would, depending on who I am and, and where I am in my life and all, you know, other emotions and everything check those boxes on, practicing feeling a sense of vastness, right? That, that’s in the definition.

Dacher Keltner: Yeah. Well in our awe walk, here’s a simple thing to do, right? And I do this all the time, and we worked on this and then tested it scientifically, like, just practice how you perceive things like practice looking at, look for details in small things. Like the grain of the wood I’m looking at. And then span out and look at vast things, right? And that simple act Is a pathway to awe just by finding the patterns and details, looking at the vast things around you. And, you know, there are just simple habits. When, when you um, get into a scene in a place of nature, just stop, right? Stop. Try to quiet your mind, take a breath and, and not name things, right? Just let it come to you. So there are simple things you can bring it to your, your daily life pretty easily.

Amy Bushatz: One of the things that, that I’ve noticed is to keep a practice of looking for unique things around me. So when I’m in somewhere new, that’s very easy. Everything’s unique. Uh, My family and I were recently in Florida, which is of course very different from Alaska, and my husband and I went for a run in very urban space near his aunt’s house, and I mean, we’re in Florida, so it’s entirely different animal population. We’re running against four-lane, very busy state sort of highway situation. I mean, we’re running by a Wawa, okay? Like we’re not in nature per se. And nonetheless, I felt like I was on some kind of animal safari, I’m like, wow, what is that? And it’s just giant Iguana! And there’s a crocodile in the ditch. And just on and on and on. Then, and then we passed by some cows. It was amazing. I’m still thinking about it. Okay. I very much doubt that the person who lives in that neighborhood when going on the same run is predisposed to notice those things.

But if they were to step back and say, what am I gonna see today out here? Like, let’s count some animals. Let’s notice, notice who’s out sunning themselves today in the ditch. They would perhaps feel that way. And, and I model that a little bit when I’m at home. So in my normal environment, when I go out in the same walk, I take all the time, right? Same path, same woods, same time of day. But it’s always different. There’s always a chance to find that awe.

It’s in the fact that the sunlight today and the way it hits the tree at 2:05 PM is not the way it hit the tree at 2:05 PM yesterday because we gained five minutes of light. Thank you, Jesus. Um, , uh, you know the moose that we’ve got this resident moose out there right now? I’m not sure she is very old. I think she’s probably just about a year old, which is to say she’s not particularly humongous. Uh, And she doesn’t have any babies, which is unusual this time of year for female moose. They always have some sort of baby moose following them around. Um, But I’m always interested in like, what has she been snacking on? What exactly does a moose eat in January?

Dacher Keltner: Yeah. Rachel Carson has this spectacular essay, the great environmentalist and really very important historical figure. You know, The silence Spring and in the fifties and it’s how to, how to teach your child to wonder.

And she just offers these simple ideas that you’re getting to of like, when you go places, just notice differences. Just ask questions, think about how small things relate to the vast. Um, Think about how things are changing, you know? How wow. I, I love this one hike and I’m going at, at, on it at 4:00 PM today.

Oh. It’s different than it was at 6:00 PM right, notice the light, there’s just so much to notice. That’s awe-inspiring that your example uh, Reminds us of, so it’s worth thinking about.

Amy Bushatz: So you just used the word wonder, and it makes me question how wonder, feeling, wonder and awe. Are these syno sy synonyms, are these synonyms? Are they two different concepts, awe and wonder?

Dacher Keltner: They are, they’re different. The, although they’re very closely related, awe is the feeling you have when you see something vast and mysterious or hear it. Wonder is the mental state that follows awe. Right? Like, what just happened? I’m really fascinated by that.

I’m curious about it. Um, And you know, one of my favorite historical stories about wonder is Dscartes and Newton, great thinkers that they were, were awe struck by by rainbow. You know, like

Amy Bushatz: As we often all are

Dacher Keltner: Yeah. Like how do they work,

Amy Bushatz: Relatable.

Dacher Keltner: And so those, yeah. So they’re in this state of wonder like, wow, how would you know light come through a water molecule and bend and turn into the color spectrum?

And so they did a bunch of science to figure it out. So that’s, that’s what wonder does. It is fueled by awe. And then it leads us to try to figure things out.

Amy Bushatz: So it’s almost like, or rather it is an outcome of awe.

Dacher Keltner: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. It is. And in the book I talk about a few important outcomes of awe.

One is just modesty and humility. You just feel small. Another one’s interesting is just kindness. You know, People feeling awe, just they have this urge to serve and to be good, in some interesting way. Yeah. Uh, That we’ve documented.

Amy Bushatz: We could use more of that, that’s for sure.

Dacher Keltner: Yeah. Tell me about it.

Amy Bushatz: Um, can you give us two or three or maybe four tips for feeling or for rather filling life with more awe opportunities like creating this practice, whether that is through spending time outside or in other ways?

Dacher Keltner: Yeah, yeah. You know, I um, uh, have been really struck, you know, I’ve taught happiness for 25 years, teach the practices of it to every imaginable audience and awe is actually pretty easy to access, which is striking. So the first thing I think is, really to think about your mindset, right? Give yourself time. Be oriented towards wandering, right? A little rather than like go being goal directed and following Google Maps and, and try to be open-minded, like you were suggesting.

Like, look for things that are different and what’s new. So that’s the mindset of awe of wandering and wondering and being open. And then, you know, um, we’ve tested an awe walk, which is simply if you’re walking, go someplace, it seems a little mysterious and new, and, and be open to awe. We’ve tested a few of like, spend two minutes just looking up at the sky and following clouds and notice what their patterns are like.

Sunsets are obvious. Listen to water, you probably have a lot of water in Alaska. You know, I um, found this very powerful when I, I wrote this book in part when I was grieving the loss of my brother. Really stressed out and I would just listen to water, you know, like, listen to the stream on the Berkeley campus, listen to a wave.

And Rachel Carson nicely writes about, like, try to fe see if you can find the pattern of sound and where, how it originates in water, which is amazing. Listen to bird song and then, you know, a lot of cultural things. Think about a piece of music that brought you goosebumps and, and listen to it. Think about what it means to you, what it teaches you about yourself. So, there are a lot of awe practices to cultivate.

Amy Bushatz: Hmm. Can you describe as a final thing for us, a time that you felt a noticeable or maybe even profound sense of awe outdoors? Just like a linchpin example here.

Dacher Keltner: Yeah. I mean, I have been lucky to have had so many of those experiences of awe outdoors. I think the most, the, the big recent one was backpacking with my daughter. I, I have a couple, well, this is a fascinating one. Last year we were backpacking in on down by Bishop on the east, in the East Sierras. It was the day that this one in 1000 year storm flooded Death Valley, which has never happened.

And then that storm ripped up over us and sent this electrical storm over us. And it was fascinating because, it was thrilling to be, we were at, I think 11,000 feet, these clouds are rolling in, they’re dark and angry, and we were like, wow. And it was awe- inspiring. And then they start sending lightning bolts down hitting you know, the ravine, the mountains right across from us. And then it was terrifying. So it was a great lesson and like, wow, awe is just raw and it’s, and it’s different than, than terror. So, I’ve been lucky to find a lot of those big one ex experiences of awe in the high sierras.

Amy Bushatz: Mm-hmm. And and chasing them by just putting yourself in a position where you might encounter something and then being open and aware to absorb it as it comes with that sort of, described as like childlike almost willingness to have wonder or to open the door to that concept and not be so grown up all the time.

Dacher Keltner: And just give yourself a minute. You know, I tell medical doctors who I teach regularly, like, you know, they all have little gardens nearby. People find a lot of awe in gardens. Just get outside and have your lunch outside and listen for a minute, you know? As you’re eating your sandwich and, and uh, just be open to it, like you said.

Amy Bushatz: Interesting. Well, sir, thank you so much for your time today on Humans Outside. We Sure do value your expertise and people can find your book wherever books are sold.

Dacher Keltner: Yes, at Amazon and hopefully local bookstores.

Amy Bushatz: Awesome. Thank you so much.

Dacher Keltner: Thank you, Amy. Great being with you.

Amy Bushatz: Thanks so much for listening to this week’s episode of Humans Outside. Help me out by leaving a five star rating or review wherever you get your podcasts. It really does help other listeners find the podcast too. Now go get outside. Until next time, we’ll see you out there.

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