Add Bursts of Beauty to Your Life to Survive Difficult Times
by Gael Lindenfield
Recently, I met a friend for coffee whom I hadn’t seen for a couple of months. The moment I saw her, I commented on how great she looked. I could see she was a bit taken aback by the intensity of my tone (she did, in fact, look years younger than when I had last seen her), and she was curious to know what it was about her that had made such an impression on me.
Confronted with specifying exactly what had prompted my remark, I said perhaps it was the sparkle in her eyes, her beaming smile, glowing skin and her relaxed and easy posture, all of which formed quite a different picture from the one I had seen last time we’d met.
My friend explained that over the previous months her work had become extremely pressurised. In addition, as she was nearing retirement, she had been having major anxieties about the sudden and unexpected erosion of her pension caused by the economic downturn.
As we talked, I expected to hear some good news about a change in her circumstances. But no, her stresses were greater than ever. The conversation then moved on to sharing news about our recent activities, and it became clear what had caused such a noticeable lift in my friend’s demeanour and appearance. She mentioned that she had recently spent a weekend in Paris which had set her thinking. While she was there, she had done nothing particularly special or unusual. She had just walked around, looking at buildings and visiting a few galleries. But on her return, she found that she felt very different.
She said she was convinced that it was simply the beauty of Paris that had lifted her mood and relaxed her body and mind. It made her realise how little time she had been spending around beauty and that she had forgotten what a powerful tonic it is for her. Since her return, she’d been setting aside time to enjoy regular “doses” of beauty, for example, taking a walk on a cliff top with stunning views, seeing a beautifully filmed movie and going on a guided tour of a well-known gallery that opened her eyes to some striking art she had never noticed before.
No wonder my friend looked so much better! Beauty is naturally stimulates of the happiness hormones. The chemical response that it sets off within us infuses us with a sense of well-being. It helps muscles to relax, dulls physical pain and causes mental worries to float automatically to the back of your mind.
And, of course, as my friend found on her return home, you don’t need to rush off to Paris to get this kind of fix. Beauty is always available for you to enjoy in your day-to-day life. You may simply need to make a conscious effort to notice it and allow yourself a little time to appreciate it. When you are stressed, your mind is even less likely to pick up automatically on these everyday opportunities to benefit from the restorative pleasure of beauty.
One way to counter this effect of stress is to reignite your “beauty sensors” by regularly adding new and unusual stimulants into the backdrop of your life. Of course, how you choose to do this will vary from individual to individual. I might use visually stimulating pictures, for example, while my husband is more likely to listen to an uplifting piece of music. One friend of mine would choose to feel a delicately textured fabric, while another would select a fresh fragrance from a garden.
Here are some cheap and easy ways to add bursts of beauty to everyday life:
Buy yourself flowers or a plant each month.
Put a new beautiful photo on to your screen saver each week.
Borrow an art book from the library once a week.
Collect postcards from museums and galleries or card shops and mount regular new art shows on your kitchen cupboards or around your desk.
Collect different leaves and draw or press inside a book and then paste on to a card and send to friends.
Collect delicious sounding recipes and cook a new one at least once a month.
Gather together small pieces of fabric with different textures from remnant boxes or old clothes and make into a collage or scarf that you can feel and enjoy.
Make a collection of stones or shells and wash and polish each in turn.
Collect a few worms and earth in a jar and observe them for a day or so.
Visit a butterfly museum (there is a wonderful one in Portsmouth in the UK).
Take a walk in a rose garden and drink in each of the individual scents, one by one.
Take a few minutes each day to notice the evolving colours and shapes of the sky.
You can get many more ideas by reading or questioning people around you on this subject. Poets and young children can be great sources of inspiration as they see wondrous beauty in things that so often become “ordinary” and go unnoticed.
After finding out what others appreciate in an object or experience, make a conscious effort to be open to sensing the beauty that is able to give them so much pleasure. It doesn’t always work, but when it does I find it very exciting.
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