Word-Of-the-Week #926: Healing

May 5, 2022 by  

Healing easing or relieving emotional distress. 

Have you ever felt that you didn’t fit in with the “norm?”  Have you ever suffered from depression or felt “stressed out” for long periods of time? Did you know that there may be something therapeutic in nature beyond exercise and relaxation?

This is last part of Feeling Awe May Be the Secret to Health and Happiness from the Parade article by Paula Spencer Scott. She writes,      

  • The healing potential of awe. 

Though this is still pretty new science, it’s already being applied to the real world. At Newcomers High School in Long Island City, N.Y., Julie Mann takes her students on “Awe Walks” to connect with nature or art. When they write about these experiences and share them in the classroom, she says, kids who never talk in class or pay attention come to life. “It helps them feel less marginalized, with a sense that life is still good,” she says. 

Kids and grown-ups alike have fewer chances these days to find such transformative moments. We’re increasingly stressed, indoors, plugged into devices and less tightly connected to neighbors and friends. Could more awe be just what the doctor ordered? 

Bare thinks so. He credits backpacking and rock-climbing trips with nothing less than saving his life. “I literally climbed out of depression,” he says.

In 2010, not long after that Druid Arch hike with his brother, Bare and fellow vet Nick Watson co-founded Veterans Expeditions to get other returning soldiers (from all eras) outdoors. Like him, they reported relief from PTSD.

Fascinated, Bare sensed that there may be something therapeutic in nature beyond exercise and relaxation—something like the psychological and social shifts that awe brings. Now the director of Sierra Club Outdoors, the arm of the environmental group that organizes wilderness trips for groups, he’s partnered with UC Berkeley to form the Great Outdoors Lab to document nature’s impact on the mind, body and relationships.


We can’t all experience the ultimate awe of viewing the Earth from space, be we can do the following:

1. Drop the devices and gaze at the clouds or stars.

2. Visit a local, state or national park.

3. Take an Awe Walk in your neighborhood, noticing things as if for the first time.

4. Describe to a friend or write about a time you once felt awe.

5. Visit a museum or planetarium.

6. Get up early to watch the sunrise.

7. Play amazing music (Beethoven’s Fifth comes up often.)

                        For me it would be Ravel’s Bolero or anything Rolling Stones!


Early studies have taken veterans and underserved adolescents white-water rafting. Subjects showed measured improvements in psychological well-being, social functioning and life outlook. “Veterans’ stress dropped by 30 percent. It’s a compelling pattern,” says researcher Craig Anderson. 

In fact, Bare has a prediction: “In a few years, you’ll go to the doctor and, as part of treatment for trauma, you’ll get a prescription to get some hiking boots or go on a rafting trip.” 

Meanwhile, he has a new source of transcendence every bit as wham! as Canyonlands’ red-gold spires: his baby daughter, Wilder.

Awesome name, right? 

This week’s focus is on the healing power of awe. Can you imagine what it would feel like to experience nature for the first time? When was the last time you experienced one of the 7 Ways to Find Awe? Have you done any other “everyday things” that were awe inspiring?

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