Sprawling across the world is a veritable fountain of wellness, just waiting to be tapped into with the practice of skychology
We all know that finding spare time to prioritise your wellbeing is easier said than done. But, as the emerging trend of skychology shows, self-care doesn’t have to be as time-consuming as you might think. In fact, it suggests that you can easily boost your mood by stepping outside and simply looking up. The newly emergent wellbeing practice is shown to have tremendous physical, emotional and even spiritual benefits. And the good news is, it’s well within your gaze.
The research into skychology began as a study into what people experience when they look up at the sky. “I wasn’t looking for the wellbeing benefits when I designed the study,” says Paul Conway, a positive psychology and wellbeing speaker (successfulhumans.org) and researcher into skychology. “But I soon found that there were instant calming effects from looking up at the sky, greater prosocial behaviour (the intent of helping others) and even enhanced immunity. The results suggested that just looking at the sky presents a window into the experience and remarkable health benefits of ‘awe’, in such a way that everyone, everywhere, everyday can get their daily dose of one of nature’s medicines.”
The fundamentals of skychology come down to the way the human body reacts when faced with awe: an intense feeling of wonder, humility and even a touch of mind-boggling fear. It’s the awareness that we, as individuals, and the challenges we face are perhaps not the biggest, best and most important things in the universe. “Researchers have been exploring how to invoke awe experiences in the lab using VR, but skychology suggests nature has provided us with a free, always-on, always-changing resource for experiencing awe,” says Paul. “That’s not to say we’ll get something every time we look at the sky – often, we may get nothing. However, there’s also the chance that we’ll experience something that plays a crucial role in promoting emotional and psychological wellbeing.”
There have been many studies on the effects that awe has on humans, namely, the ones performed by UC Berkley Professor of Psychology Dacher Keltner. Keltner’s studies have shown that awe appears to offer instant happiness and an overall life satisfaction boost. It also shows that stress is dramatically reduced and, in one study, awe was even shown to reduce symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by an average of 29 percent. From there, these newly released positive emotions (and hormones, including the ‘love chemical’ oxytocin) and diminishment of stress hormones result in physical health benefits, such as a lowered release of pro-inflammatory cytokines and a bolstered immune system.
The benefits of awe don’t stop at the individual. By looking up at the sky and appreciating it, we can experience humbling feelings of self-diminishment and connectedness, both in our immediate circle of friends and family and humanity as a whole. According to researchers at the Greater Good Science Centre, kindness, patience and generosity tend to be in greater supply in those who regularly indulge in awe-inspiring activities, while materialism is decreased – all attributes which, in and of themselves, come with their own mental and physical wellbeing benefits. “In skychology, we’re presented with the opportunity to bring the exceptional and far-reaching benefits of awe into our lives with ease. Because awe is based on the mystery of existence, experiencing it, even infrequently, may feel a bit out of our reach,” says Paul. “But I believe an answer lies on the horizon in the form of skychology.”
Find out how looking up every day can positively enhance your wellbeing in an instant.
1. Just deciding that you’re looking up at the sky with a view to boosting your wellbeing will shift your perspective in such a way that you’ll be more receptive to the beauty and mystery of the sky, which we so often take for granted. Some days you might feel the need to focus your intent for a moment longer than usual, but it’s likely you’ll find that the sky will do the hard work for you.
2. Embrace skychology, whatever the weather: glorious sunshine, blazing stars, thunderstorms and vibrant sunsets may seem as though they have more to offer than a grey sky drizzling rain, but the ever-changing nature of the sky is just one more thing to be wowed by. So don’t be deterred by the weather.
3. Be curious about what you see. Make a point of observing and enjoying different textures, colours, contrasts and sensations you experience when sky-gazing.
4. As you look at the sky, allow any thoughts you have to come up and then move on. Does the sky seem to reflect how you’re feeling? Or is it entirely different? Considering your relationship with the sky can make for interesting viewing of your own position in the world.
5. Developing the ability the see the extraordinary in the ordinary is likely to soon extend from your skychology practice into many other areas of life! Notice when this comes up and take that new frame of mind with you into everything you do.
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