“Flaneuring” Might Be the French Trend You Need to Boost Your Wellbeing

published Nov 3, 2020
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If a daily walk has become part of your quarantine routine ever since the start of the pandemic this past spring, you might already be acquainted with the many physical and mental benefits of a little fresh air and a change of scenery from your living room walls. But if you use your time outside listening to music or a podcast, chatting on the phone, snapping photos for social media, or answering texts and emails, you might want to leave the phone at home altogether, according to “the art of flaneuring,” or “awe walks.”

You might be asking, “Flan…what, now?” Flaneuring is a French term with no exact translation in English, but it’s definitely one you’ll want to know more about ahead of the second wave of the pandemic. A flaneur is a long, leisurely stroll in which you simply soak up the sights and sounds around you, whether you’re passing by homes and buildings you’ve seen thousands of times, or are exploring somewhere new.

According to Erika Owen, the author of 2019’s “The Art of Flaneuring: How to Wander with Intention and Discover a Better Life,” the term was coined to describe “well-to-do French men who would stroll city streets in the nineteenth century”—essentially to “wander with intention.”

As for what that actually means, well you simply walk and observe things around you—really, truly observe them, without the distraction of a device tethered to you. It might be the kind of thing you reserve for sightseeing in new destinations, but you can take advantage of the many benefits of a truly leisurely stroll anywhere you are—and right now, amid the current state of affairs, you absolutely should.

If you’re not already convinced, this method of strolling and observing is a science-backed way to boost your emotional well-being. A 2020 study published in the psychological journal “Emotion” found that sixty older adults who took took outdoor “awe walks” in unfamiliar areas, walking for for at least 15 minutes per week over the course of eight weeks, reported higher levels of joy and positive emotions than they’d reported before the study, even displaying “increasing smile intensity over the study.” So basically, even just a brief stroll down the block in which you engage with your surroundings could lead to bigger smiles and more happiness overall.

Of course, spending time outside is already a proven way to reap numerous health benefit, including improved mood, improved concentration, and reduced levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. But when was the last time you did so without the sounds of a podcast or a phone call in your ear, or without your eyes glued to your notifications? Next time, if it’s safe, give it a try and leave the phone at home (or keep it on you but allow it to remain muted or turned off)—you never know what beautiful things you might discover right in your own backyard.