Skychology is a new field of research in mental health, wellness, and coaching that is quickly gaining popularity. The theory suggests that you can rapidly improve your mindset by walking outdoors and gazing upwards at the sky. This new approach to health and wellness has been shown to have important physical, emotional, and even spiritual benefits.
The act of looking up at the sky can provide a sense of perspective and calm, making one's problems and worries feel small in comparison.
Being outside and in nature have been shown to have positive effects on mental health, including reducing symptoms of stress and anxiety.
The sky can inspire feelings of awe and wonder, which have been linked to increased feelings of well-being and life satisfaction.
Focusing on the sky and its changing colors, shapes, and movements can be a way to practice mindfulness, which help reduce stress and improve focus.
While Skychology alone may not be enough to address severe mental health issues, it can be helpful addition to a holistic approach to mental health and well-being.
Well-being in today's society
Well-being is a complex concept that encompasses physical, mental, and emotional health. In today's society, there is a growing awareness of the importance of well-being and the impact of factors such as stress, work-life balance, and social connections on overall health and happiness. However, despite this awareness, many people and communities still struggle with various issues related to well-being, such as mental health disorders, chronic diseases, and poverty.
Skychology – who created the term?
Paul Conway, a personal and executive coach, has researched the positive benefits of looking up at the sky as a therapeutic intervention to promote psychological well-being. Conway explains in his research study that he was inspired to develop a novel "sky-based" Positive Psychology Intervention (PPI) called Skychology because of his interest in investigating the phenomenological experience of gazing at the sky.
Key features of Skychology
According to Conway, who runs Successful Humans, a positive psychology-based organization that provides personal and executive coaching, Skychology has three key features:
- Calming. Looking at the sky is almost immediately calming. This has a positive effect on stress, our emotions, and the mind and body as a whole;
- Grounding. We feel grounded when we look up at the sky. We become more mindful and connected. We gain clarity and perspective from the world around us;
- Awe-inspiring. When we gaze up at the sky, it can give us a sense of awe. Awe is characterized by feelings of wonder, amazement, and a sense of smallness in the face of something much larger than ourselves. Research has shown that experiencing awe can have several benefits for mental and physical health.
Theories behind Skychology
Conway asserts that the work that he does is underpinned by evidence-based positive psychology principles. Positive psychology is the investigation of the positive aspects of the human experience, including happiness, fulfillment, and well-being. It is predicated on the notion that people can improve their well-being by concentrating on their strengths and the positive aspects of their lives.
Positive psychology explores positive emotions, character qualities, and psychological health. It seeks to comprehend how individuals can flourish and have satisfying lives. It also aims to enhance well-being and avoid mental health issues by concentrating on strengths as opposed to shortcomings.
Nature and neuropsychology
Looking up at the sky, as a therapeutic activity, may have an impact on brain activity and physiological changes. The field of neuropsychology investigates how neural circuits in the brain influence human behavior. It aims to understand how the brain and nervous system function to influence behavior and cognitive processes such as memory, perception, and language.
Research has shown that being in nature can activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is associated with relaxation and stress reduction. Interestingly, the act of looking up at the sky and experiencing awe may activate certain areas of the brain associated with positive emotion and social cognition.
The experience of awe
One of the most interesting features of Skychology is the experience of awe. Awe is a complex emotion that can be difficult to define. It is often described as a sense of wonder and a feeling of reverence or admiration in the face of something vast or majestic, such as nature, art, or the universe. Awe can also be triggered by acts of compassion, generosity, charity, and selflessness.
Awe is associated with positive psychological outcomes such as increased well-being, life satisfaction, and prosocial behavior. Research has also shown that experiencing awe can lead to a sense of interconnectedness, humility, and a change in outlook.
It has been found that people who experience awe regularly are less likely to be affected by depression and anxiety.
Awe can be experienced in many different ways, such as through art, nature, music, religion, or other cultural experiences. Some people may experience awe through prayer, yoga, or mindfulness practices, while others may find it in the beauty of nature or the accomplishments of those we admire.
However, awe can be a difficult emotion to elicit; it is also a very subjective feeling. What one person may find awe-inspiring, another person may not.
Benefits of experiencing awe
Being in a state of awe can have several benefits for mental and physical health. Some of the benefits include:
- Improved well-being. Increased feelings of well-being and general satisfaction with life;
- Less stress;
- Increased generosity;
- Increased cognition. Better thinking and creativity;
- Connection. Increased feelings of connection to others and the world;
- Better health. Improved heart rate variability and immune function.
All things considered, awe is a powerful and positive emotion that can have a significant impact on our well-being and our sense of connection to the world around us.
Ways to experience awe
Look skyward. Make a conscious effort to look up at the sky at regular times each day. This simple act can improve your mindset and open your eyes to the wonders of the sky, which we can often ignore or take for granted.
Spend time in nature. Nature has a way of inspiring awe with its vastness, beauty, and complexity. Take a hike, go camping, or go to a forest and stand beside a tall tree and look up.
Experience new things. Awe is often triggered by novel and transcendent experiences. Try visiting a new city, attending a concert, or experiencing a new culture.
Seek patterns and connections. Awe can be triggered by seeing patterns and connections in the world around us. Try looking for patterns in nature, such as the symmetry of a leaf, waves crashing on the shore, or the way light filters through the trees.
Challenge your perspective. Activities that challenge our viewpoint and make us feel small can evoke feelings of awe. For example, going to an art museum, looking up at the night sky or at the stars, or going to a place of worship can make you feel awestruck.
Practice sky mindfulness. Observing the sky can be an awe-inspiring way to practice mindfulness. Focusing on the sky, how the clouds move, and how their colors and shapes change, is an excellent mindfulness practice that reduces stress and improves focus.
Mindfulness and the sky – tips:
Here are some tips for practicing mindfulness while observing the sky:
- Get comfortable. Find a comfortable and quiet place to sit or stand and look up at the sky;
- Dial in. Take a few deep breaths and focus on the present moment;
- Let go. Release any worries or negative thoughts;
- Observe. Look at the sky without judgment. Take notice of the clouds, colors, and movements, without trying to change or improve anything;
- Pay attention. Notice the sensation of the air on your skin and the sound of the wind;
- Be gentle. If your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to observing the sky.
Skychology has many therapeutic benefits and can be a helpful addition to a holistic approach to mental health and well-being. It is important to note that this therapy alone may not be sufficient to address more severe mental health issues. If you are experiencing persistent mental health problems, contact a health professional.
- The Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley. The Science of Awe.
- Positive Psychology Center at University of Pennsylvania. The Positive Psychology Center.
- University of London. The extraordinary in the ordinary: Skychology - an interpretative phenomenological analysis of looking up at the sky.