Skychology: The future of wellbeing is looking up
What do we experience when we look up at the sky? What role does the sky play in our experience of wellbeing?
Against a backdrop of an unprecedented rise in global urbanisation, a chronic decline in our connection with nature, and the unfolding impact of the covid-19 pandemic, the answers to these questions matter.
Research has neglected the human experience of looking up at the sky, and the role the sky plays in our experience of wellbeing, hence the creation of "Skychology", a new area of wellbeing research, defined as, "scientific endeavours to understand and operationalise interactions with the sky to enhance wellbeing" (Conway & Hefferon, 2019).
In the first study of its kind, four participants shared their experiences of looking up at the sky during in-depth, semi-structured interviews. Their experiences suggest looking up at the sky has the potential to be a highly effective wellbeing activity.
Looking up at the sky:
1. Is immediately calming.
2. Contributes to the experience of wellbeing.
3. Appears to be a highly effective form of emotional self-regulation.
4. Appears to enhance mindfulness and feeling present in the moment, experienced as feeling a greater sense of clarity & perspective.
5. Promotes a greater sense of connectedness and feeling part of something bigger than ourselves.
6. Appears to be an everyday window to the experience of "awe" - a complex emotion positively associated with wellbeing, perspective-taking, humility, creativity, prosocial behaviour, reduced inflammatory response and enhanced immune system health (Stellar, et al, 2015).
7. Appears to negate the effects of "hedonic adaptation" (Lyubomirsky & Layous, 2013). Positive activites lose effectiveness over time, as we become used to them. However looking at the sky, it seems, never gets old - suggesting we can experience its wellbeing benefits at any time, throughout our lives.
These findings suggest looking up at the sky is an effective, everyday wellbeing activity, with the potential to positively impact lives all across the world.
"I'm trying to encourage my children to appreciate things in life that are free. That make you feel good. That not everything... has to have a value that's monetary. And this happens to be something that's there every day. That for a few moments you can go 'wow, that's pretty amazing'. I don't even know how that happens... but it's happening.”
- Cielo, Skychology research participant