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See Beauty, Feel Happy

Claire Wheeler's tips on finding beauty and excellence every day

Spring is finally here, and the world coming into bloom. This is a good time to contemplate the power of beauty to generate happiness.

Do you tear up while watching the Olympics? Does the sight of a cherry tree in full bloom stop you in your tracks? Does your heart feel full when you watch your children play? Have you ever stood speechless in front of a painting in a museum?

If so, you have the personality trait that experts in Positive Psychology call 'appreciation of beauty and excellence,' a component of the human strength of transcendence. Compared to people who have a low level of this type of appreciation, lovers of beauty and excellence are more likely to report finding joy and meaning in everyday life. They also display a stronger tendency to create deeper, more loving connections with other people.

In this day and age of hipster angst and media drama overload, it can seem almost juvenile to feel true wonder at anything. It's just not cool to be awestruck, and the word "awesome" has been so overused that it has lost its meaning. All the more reason to find beautiful things in every day.

Appreciation of beauty and excellence is a highly individual thing. What inspires me may leave you cold, and vice versa. It's not the object that matters.

What matters is this - being able to have feelings of awe, admiration, or wonder in response to the world around you. It's those feelings, and not what inspires them, that will make you happier and more connected.

Here are some tips for reconnecting with your sense of wonder and awe:

  • Take a mindful walk. A mindful walk is one you take slowly, noticing every step along the way. You can do this from your front door to your car in the morning or take a longer walk at lunchtime or in the evening. Walk at a very slow pace - many people take one step as they inhale, and the next step as they exhale. Set the intention to experience the world around you with all your senses while you walk. Very often, just taking the time to notice your world is all it takes to find lots of beauty in it.
  • Do something differently each day. Take a different route to work. Take your coffee break outside instead of in your office. Say hello to someone you don't know very well. Adding these little novel elements to your day makes you more attentive, increasing the likelihood that you'll see something lovely.
  • Make time for the things you think are beautiful or excellent. If you love modern art, get a couple coffee table books of your favorite artists. Leave one on the coffee table, and take one to your office. If you love flowers, buy some forced bulbs and put them around your house. Indulge in an exotic blossom when you shop for groceries.
  • Become an amateur photographer. This is really easy to do nowadays, when most mobile phones have cameras built in and fun photography applications abound. Make a deal with yourself to take one photo of something you think is beautiful every day for a month. Before long, you'll find yourself seeking, and finding beautiful people, places and things every day.
  • Read biographies and memoirs about people who have accomplished things you admire.
More from Claire Wheeler M.D., Ph.D.
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More from Claire Wheeler M.D., Ph.D.
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