9 Ways to Enhance Aesthetics and Beauty in Our Daily Life
Everyday aesthetic activity is a rich source of happiness.
Posted October 20, 2018 | Reviewed by Ekua Hagan
Our daily routines (cleaning, living, socializing, going to work, doing errands, or just sitting quietly) are not normally appreciated, because they lack the surprise elements or novelty of the special events. But they are immensely important for our happiness. The followings describe various strategies for enriching our aesthetic experience when dealing with everyday routines (Yuriko, 2017). Through repeated practice, we can cultivate an aesthetic sensibility regarding everyday objects and activities.
1. Disrupt your routine. Parties, holidays, and business trips are exceptional occasions. They are considered positive alternatives to everyday routines. For example, we can invite some friends to join us, turn on the music and open a bottle of wine. But if we engage in these activities all the time and in the same way, they might become routine. Novelty wears off rather quickly.
2. Keep things fresh. We can de-familiarize ourselves with the things that are normal to us when we start seeing them in a different way. This requires paying attention to their emotional and sensory aspects, such as appearance, feel, look, touch, sound, and other perceivable qualities. This attitude can turn the mundane, everyday life into an aesthetic treasure trove.
3. Creating ambiance. Beauty is generated by a situation. Our ordinary experience is seldom obtained through a single sensory source. For instance, taste is inseparable from smell and texture. Our appreciation of food is inseparable from the whole ambiance orchestrated by a number of other ingredients: table setting and decoration, the environment in which we are eating, music, its occasion, time of the day, and so on. For example, the taste of a very expensive wine wouldn’t be the same if we drink it out of a paper cup.
4. Visual hunger. Desire or urge for eating depends on the interaction of the five senses. But which of the senses is important? The answer turns out to be the sense of sight (Campo, et al., 2017). Viewing appetizing foods alone can induce food craving and eating. This lends support for the old adage that we eat first with our eyes. The way food is presented (visual aesthetic) plays an important role in the brain pleasure center.
5. Beautiful manners. It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. The aesthetic of mannerism shifts attention away from what is said to how it is said. This means paying attention to the tone of voice, facial expressions, and bodily movement, as well as the content. These outward appearances communicate basic moral attitudes: considerations, respect, and tolerance. Another mundane everyday act regards eating food. For example, one may wolf down a lovingly prepared meal, or one may take time and savor every bite mindfully.
6. Experiencing the thing-in-itself. Oscar Wilde wrote that "all art is quite useless." We appreciate beautiful things not for their practical purpose (utility) only, but also for what they are in themselves. For example, shadows play no function and yet can be beautiful. The beautiful mood of summer is totally different than the winter, yet both can equally be savored.
7. Everything is impermanent. Aged objects remind us of the impermanence of everything, including our own existence. The Buddhist teaching recognizes attachment (identified as craving) as the origin of suffering. Whether we are rich or poor, powerful or powerless, time works democratically on all of us, including our possessions. Nothing is exempt from this law of nature.
8. Emptiness of self. The Buddhism teaching recognizes that there is a fundamental disparity between the way we perceive the world and the way things truly are. The insight suggests that there are many possible realities depending upon the outlook, and ours is only one among many possibilities. The Buddhism insight also reminds us that enlightenment means being free from attachment to things and self. Clinging to those familiar beliefs leads us to a false view of the world.
9. Self-development. Finally, one can try to escape from routine and boredom in slower ways (Naukkarinen 2013). This often means a process of developing ourselves, widening our horizons, or learning something new, which can be very demanding. For example, studying arts, music, or sciences. Art and sciences function as a means for opening up new outlooks and understanding the world in a fresh and different way.
In sum, everyday aesthetics means appreciating the mundane activities in our daily life as extraordinary (Leddy, 2012). Artful living means taking a genuine interest in all details of daily life. From this perspective, an interesting or happy life might also be regarded as a creative "work of art."
Leddy, Thomas (2012), The Extraordinary in the Ordinary: the Aesthetics of Everyday Life, Peterborough: Broadview Press.
Naukkarinen, Ossi (2013), “What is ‘Everyday’ in Everyday Aesthetics?” Contemporary Aesthetics, 11.
Spence C, Okajima K, Cheok AD, Petit O, Michel C. Eating with our eyes: From visual hunger to digital satiation. Brain Cogn. 2016 Dec;110:53-63.
Yuriko Saito (2017), Aesthetics of the Familiar: Everyday Life and World-Making, NY: Oxford University Press.