Person raising their arms to beautiful scenery
Tara Kerzhner
Person raising their arms to beautiful scenery
Kyparissi, Greece (Photo: Tara Kerzhner)
The Outside Guide to Awe

The Big, Wild, Majestic, Strange, and Infinite World of Outdoor Awe

Nature is the ultimate source of wonder. But what is awe, really, and why is it good for us?

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The stunning effects of wind and flood erosion on the we all of Lower Antelope Canyon Page Arizona; woman's eye looking to the light.
Lower Antelope Canyon, LeChee, Arizona (Photo: Neal Pritchard/Stocksy; Eva Plevier/Stocksy)

Awe Is Good for Your Brain. Here’s How to Find It.

Scientists are focussing studies on the power of awe, and for good reason. Experiencing it is essential for our health. Our author hit the road during California’s superbloom to figure out what goes on in the mind and body when we’re blown away.

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William Shatner in a rendering of a spaceship with Mars in the background
Shatner in his role as mission control on Stars on Mars (Photo: Michael Becker/Fox)

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When the actor took a suborbital rocket ride, he came down with amazing (and fearsome) insights about the previous nature of our planet.

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Close-up of a hand picking a berry
(Photo: Johner Images/Getty)

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DiGiulian hanging out at her home in Boulder, Colorado
DiGiulian hanging out at her home in Boulder, Colorado (Photo: Jimena Peck)

How Sasha DiGiulian Stays Grounded

DiGiulian just wrote her memoir while running her own business, making movies, and chasing tough climbs. Here’s how she balances it all.

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(Photo: Jay Kolsch)

Nothing Prepares You for Seeing An Avalanche With Your Own Eyes

We’ve all taken in the power of a big slide on social media. But there’s no substitute for the real thing.

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The author in Tahiti
The author in Tahiti (Photo: Ronni Flannery)

How Ketamine Therapy Helped Heal My Accident Trauma

A psychedelic renaissance is underway in the U.S., with an emphasis on the healing potential for depression and trauma. An Outside editor gives ketamine a test run and reports that the power is real.

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View of the Franklin Mountain Range in El Paso, Texas during a cloudy morning at sunrise.
(Photo: Steven Green/500px/Getty)

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Sometimes a quick brush with danger can feel almost transcendent.

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Natural Magic in Everyday Life

Awe doesn’t need to be visually dramatic to have an effect on our bodies, brains, and outlook. Psychotherapist Jake Eagle and Michael Amster developed a simple, short (under a minute) mindfulness practice for finding daily moments of awe, no matter where we are or what we’re doing. Bonus: by cultivating small moments, we become better at recognizing awe when it happens spontaneously. We can train ourselves to view the world through a lens of wonder and find beauty in ordinary things. In their book The Power of Awe, they recommend trying the steps laid out below—based on the acronym AWE—two or three times a day for six weeks.

A for Attention

Focus your attention on something in front of you that you value, appreciate, or find amazing. It can be a tree or caterpillar, a sound, a bowl of soup, a child dancing. Notice it deeply. Or call to mind a person who brings you to that place of amazement. Perhaps there’s a memory of someone who has touched your life. Let go of any other thoughts.

W for Wait

Pause and be fully present. Soak it in. This isn’t about thinking. It’s about being here.

E for Exhale and Expand

Take several deep breaths, lengthening the exhale. This activates the vagus nerve, taking us into a state of rest and repair. Let the pleasure of the moment expand into your body and your consciousness. —Florence Williams

Butterfly on a woman's hand
(Photo: Sveta Sh/Stocksy)

How to Know If You’ve Been Wowed

Yes, awe is ineffable. But science, being science, has taken a shot at measuring it. If you’re wondering whether you experienced it while doing something cool, the Awe Experience Scale, developed by a team of Johns Hopkins researchers and international scientists, can help.

Use the scale and the set of statements below to rate a recent experience you’ve had. The statements are grouped under six universally shared qualities of awe, such as the feeling of time, connection, and vastness. Imagine yourself back in that place, with the same sights, sounds, and emotions. Focus on this experience alone.

The Scale:

1 = Strongly disagree
2 = Moderately disagree
3 = Somewhat disagree
4 = Neutral
5 = Somewhat agree
6 = Moderately agree
7 = Strongly agree

The Statements:


1. I sensed things momentarily slow down.

2. I noticed time itself slowing.

Small Self

1. I felt that my sense of self was diminished.

2. I felt my sense of self shrink.


1. I had the sense of being connected to everything.

2. I felt a sense of communion with all living things.


1. I felt that I was in the presence of something grand.

2. I experienced something greater than myself.

Physiological Changes

1. I felt my jaw drop.

2. I got goose bumps.


1. I felt challenged to mentally process what I was experiencing.

2. I found it hard to comprehend the experience in full.

Results: Add up your points and divide by 12. If you scored below 4.17, you experienced awe to a low degree. If you scored between 4.17 and 5.52, you likely experienced a medium level of awe. If you scored above 5.52, congratulations! You hit the awe jackpot. —Florence Williams

From July/August 2023 Lead Photo: Tara Kerzhner