L.L.BEAN is funding Blum Center research on the science of awe.

By Mimi Ko Cruz

American outdoor brand L.L.Bean has partnered with Paul Piff, associate professor of psychological science, to research the mental, social and health benefits of experiencing awe through time spent outside.

Participation in outdoor activities grew over the past year as people sought safe, yet health-conscious ways to spend their time during the coronavirus pandemic. And, a growing body of evidence suggests that the benefits of time outdoors are vast — from improved short-term memory and enhanced creativity to lower levels of stress and greater feelings of well-being. One reason is that nature evokes awe — the emotional response to being in the presence of something so vast that it transcends one’s understanding of the world.

“For hundreds of years, people have talked about the importance of awe to human life and interpersonal relations,” Piff says. “I am excited to now have the opportunity to work with L.L.Bean to more deeply understand how it is linked to spending time outside and overall health, happiness and social connection.”

Through two consecutive studies, starting this month and continuing through 2022, L.L.Bean and Piff will research how awe through nature impacted emotional and physical health during the COVID-19 pandemic and whether an intervention to increase moments of awe has a positive impact on overall health and happiness.

“My great-grandfather L.L. Bean believed, and I believe, that time spent outside truly adds to the quantity and quality of one’s life,” says Shawn Gorman, executive chairman and great-grandson of L.L.Bean. “We are excited to work with Dr. Piff and UCI to truly explore the science behind this and understand why. Through this research, we intend to discover how experiencing awe in the outdoors is linked to increased happiness and health, so we can continue to inspire people to spend more time outside.”

The research program expands L.L.Bean’s ongoing efforts to inspire and enable people to spend more time outside, including recent programs such as The Green Hour with the National Wildlife Federation and expanded outdoor sports and recreation programming at Boys & Girls Club of America.