by John Russel Jones

To celebrate its 110th Anniversary, iconic outdoor retailer L.L.Bean has unveiled new, proprietary research findings that “experiencing awe” in the outdoors makes us more resilient and strengthens relationships. L.L.Bean is turning these insights into action with partner Mental Health America (MHA) to fund programming focused on improving mental well-being through time spent outdoors.

ABOVE: Photo by Olena Bohovyk

“My great-grandfather founded L.L.Bean over a century ago on the belief that nature brings out the best in us,” says Shawn Gorman, Executive Chairman, L.L.Bean. “With stress levels at an all-time high, the restorative power of the outdoors is more important than ever. This research proves what we’ve known intuitively, and we’re excited to work with MHA to support community-based programming that ensures those benefits are as accessible and inclusive as possible.”

Research shows that awe – the experience of being in the presence of something so vast or beautiful in nature it shifts our perspective – has a positive physiological effect on the human condition but little was known about its effects on mental health. L.L.Bean partnered with University of California Irvine (UCI) Associate Professor of Psychological Science Dr. Paul Piff to better understand why the outdoors makes us feel better in hopes the knowledge would empower more people to get outside more often – and with greater intention. The research found:

Experiencing awe outdoors is linked to more resilience in the face of life’s challenges. Those who experienced the highest levels of awe outdoors were 42% more likely to strongly believe they were equipped to “better handle difficulties.”

Shared experiences of awe in the outdoors deepen our relationships. Those who spent time outdoors in the company of others and reported the highest level of awe said the experience was 28% more meaningful and 37% richer.

“Awe is a profound and transformative experience yet, until today, science knew little about how it affects our mental health and social relationships,” says Dr. Paul Piff. “Now, thanks to generous support from L.L.Bean, we have exciting evidence pointing to a significant  link to increased resilience in the face of adversity and deeper, more meaningful social connections.”

Mental Health America Grant Program

L.L.Bean and MHA earlier this year announced a two-year partnership to bring the power of the outdoors to those that need it most. Now, using the research findings as a guide, L.L.Bean and MHA are kicking off a two-year grant program that will award $200,000 ($100,000 each year) through a total of 10 grants to MHA affiliates across the country to support outdoor programs that focus on resiliency and foster connection. Over 150 affiliates across 42 states are eligible to apply for funding. Grant applications for year one will be reviewed through November 2022, and recipients will be announced before the end of the year.

To learn more, visit www.llbean.com.