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< Inside L.L.Bean

Freeport, ME, October 29, 2021

Singing songs and telling ghost stories, jumping at the crack of a log. Roasting marshmallows. The smell of smoke lingering on your sweater and watching the embers smolder in the crisp morning air.

Many of us have memories of time spent around a campfire – with family while camping in the summer or backyard bonfires with friends on a chilly autumn evening. Fire provides many basic necessities – food, warmth, light – but it has such a hold on us because of the community that gathers around it. We are invited to sit down, share a meal, tell stories, and forget the rest of the world and our larger problems. While the fire may take center stage, what we hold on to are the memories of time spent with loved ones, outside and away from our day-to-day lives. And, for many, this has become a tradition.

Research shows that when we spend time outdoors with the people we love, we feel more connected to those around us. Why? According to Dr. Paul Piff, associate professor of psychological science at UC Irvine, the reason is rooted in the experience of awe. Awe, a feeling of reverential respect mixed with wonder, is a sensation we often experience while observing nature, even if we don’t realize it. What do feel when you gaze into a sky full of stars? Or see birds flying in astounding synchronization? In those moments, we feel smaller – a phenomenon researchers call the ‘small self.’ We are less focused on our ‘individual self’ and see ourselves in relation to something much greater, prompting us to be kinder and more compassionate and build stronger social bonds.

While there is more research to be done, which L.L.Bean is excited to explore in partnership with Dr. Piff, there is an undeniable connection between time spent outdoors and stronger relationships. And, most encouragingly, you don’t need to seek extravagant experiences. Simple encounters with nature, like sitting around a campfire and watching the sparks float through the air, can invoke awe and its benefits. By forming habits and building traditions around accessible outdoor experiences with family, friends and loved ones, we are not only creating wonderful memories, but also becoming better versions of ourselves and forging deeper relationships.

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