Try an Awe Walk

The Law Enforcement Survival Institute (LESI) is launching a series of short Resilience Building Challenges to expose you to new ideas about resilience enhancement from a group of experts within our wellness field, and specifically targeted to benefit emergency responders. So whether you want to armor your Self, build your emotional survival skills, your spiritual survival skills or just want to learn new and simple ways to add resilience building techniques to your life, we’ve got something for you. I believe that the police need to be more resilient!

Are you in?

Here is the first LESI Mini Resilience Building Challenge:

Topic: Building Resilience Using Awe

Title: Try an “Awe Walk”

Defining Awe
The Oxford Dictionary defines awe as: a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder.

The Collins Dictionary says that Awe is the feeling of… respect and amazement that you have when you are faced with something wonderful and often rather frightening.

“Awe is a “hack” that can boost well-being” is a definition written by Dr.Leif Hass, a hospital-based doctor at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland California, in an article I will mention below.

Defining an Awe Walk
An Awe Walk is when you take a walk with the specific purpose of finding awe. This could be a walk indoors or outdoors where you are being mindful of all the things around you, large and small, that you may have never noticed, nor examined before, and which, when given your focused attention can inspire a sense of awe, wonder or amazement.

How Can an Awe Help Build Your Resilience?
According to University of California at Berkeley “Awe makes us more cooperative; Awe sharpens our critical thinking compared to other emotional states; Awe leads to more ethical decision making; Awe makes us less concerned about ourselves and feel connected to others—and even at times to the universe in general.”

In an article, entitled: “Is Awe a Path to Resilience in Caring Professions?“, published in the online Greater Good magazine produced by the The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley. CLICK HERE to read the article.

Some Benefits of Enhancing your Sense of Awe:
● Awe leads to the perception that time is slowing down so that we can fully take in the event;
● Awe leads to humility, so we more readily accept the input of others as we appraise the situation;
● Awe makes us more cooperative;
● Awe sharpens our critical thinking compared to other emotional states;
● Awe leads to more ethical decision making;
● Awe makes us less concerned about ourselves and feel connected to others—and even at times to the universe in general.

All of these things are helpful to your wellness and can enhance your resilience against the traumas and tradegies you experience in your law enforcement careers. The article is excellent and I encourage you to click-through and read it. Particularly the section about “How can we cultivate awe?

Here is Your Challenge:

Take a 10-15 minute Awe Walk every day for the next two weeks. During that walk expand your awareness to see, hear, feel, smell and sense things that you have not noticed before. Increase your sense of mindfulness and be open to where your mind takes you. Stop and examine the small things, look outwardly and experience the vastness that surrounds you. You could walk around the block, walk thru a museum, walk a labyrinth or just walk anywhere. If you do this at work, please don’t sacrifice your situational awareness and safety.

I credit my interest in awe to the work of Jeff Thompson, a recently retired NYPD detective who was their first-ever mental health and wellness coordinator. Jeff went from his job at NYPD to work at Columbia University Medical Center as he was finishing his Ph.D. Jeff is a star in the field of law enforcement wellness and a person for you to follow. His bio and links to some of his work are listed below. Keep reading, take an Awe Walk, and join the Awe Project.

Jeff Thompson, Ph.D., is now an adjunct associate research scientist in the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center and the New York State Psychiatric Institute. Dr. Thompson is also an instructor at Lipscomb University in the College of Leadership and Public Service. He retired recently after serving more than 20 years as a detective in the New York City Police Department (NYPD) where he was their first-ever mental health and wellness coordinator and previously a hostage negotiator. Dr. Thompson conducts research on resilience, mental health, leadership, suicide pre/postvention, and crisis communication. His trainings have been provided across the world to people including first responders and other professionals. He has presented at conferences giving keynotes, plenary sessions, and workshops for a variety of academic and professional organizations.

So what does this have to do with cops you might ask? Everything!

Follow-up Information for Your Further Exploration:

Law Enforcement research on the use of awe as a technique to build resilience.

Hostage Negotiator Resilience: A Phenomenological Study of Awe by Jeff Thompson and Elizabeth Jensen

Experiencing Awe: An Innovative Way to Enhance Investigations and Wellness by Jeff Thompson

Awe: Helping Leaders Address Modern Policing Problems by Jeff Thompson

Awe Narratives: A Mindfulness Practice to Enhance Resilience & Wellbeing by Jeff Thompson

If you want to expand your learning further, consider reading the 2023 Book: Awe: The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How It Can Transform Your Life by Dacher Keltner

Dacher Keltner is a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, and directs the Berkeley Social Interaction Lab. He is said to be one of the world’s foremost emotion scientists. He has over 200 scientific publications and six books, including The Power Paradox: How We Gain and Lose Influence and Born to Be Good; he was a co-editor of the Greater Good anthology, The Compassionate Instinct.

And finally, consider joining the Awe Project.
The Awe Project

My only question for you is — Will you try it? It’s only walking 10-15 minutes a day for two weeks — What do you have to lose?

Be safe and Be well!

John Marx

P.S. if you got a simple resilience building or wellness enhancing technique that will help first responders, CLICK HERE to send me a message.

The LESI Mini Resilience Building Challenges are part of our on-going law enforcement wellness and resilience training to enhance your physical survival, mental survival, emotional survival and spiritual survival in law enforcement efforts.

REMEMBER: Police Wellness should be a SYSTEM, not a program!

At LESI we believe that an effective police wellness system should be strategic, comprehensive, specific, measurable and sustainable. The LESI faculty is always available to help you build the wellness system your agency needs whether that includes building individual resilience for your people; assessing and enhancing agency support systems; developing a positive wellness culture; promoting wellness leadership practices; or all of the above, we’re available to help you so please reach out by clicking here to email or by giving us a call.

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I’m John Marx, Founder of The Law Enforcement Survival Institute and the Editor of Connect with me on Facebook, LinkedIn Twitter. and Instagram. was founded to provide information and strategies to help police officers successfully survive their careers and improve their heathy, wellness and effectiveness. We help law enforcement officers and their agencies prepare for the risks that threaten their existence. Thank you for reading!

About Editor

John Marx was a Police Officer for twenty-three years and served as a Hostage Negotiator for nineteen of those years. He worked as a patrol officer, media liaison officer, crime prevention officer and burglary detective. Also during his career he served as administrator of his city's Community Oriented Governance initiative through the police department's Community Policing project. Today John combines his skills to consult with businesses about improving both their security and their customer service programs. John retired from law enforcement in 2002. When one of his friends, also a former police officer, committed suicide at age 38, John was devastated and began researching the problems that stress creates for police officers. He decided he needed to do something to help change those problems and he wanted to give something back to the profession that gave him so much. He started a project that has evolved into Put simply, the mission of CopsAlive is to save the lives of those who save lives! gathers information, strategies and tools to help law enforcement professionals plan for happy, healthy and successful careers, relationships and lives.
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