It can be hard to mindfully appreciate beauty when life is far from perfect, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and overpowered by stress, struggles, and negativity. When facing a mental health challenge, whether it’s a bad day, a tough situation, a problematic relationship, a diagnosis of mental illness, a chronic health condition, or something else entirely, it’s natural to concentrate on that. Unfortunately, when we do that, we’re giving the problem and our worries our almost-full attention. This increases the stressful effects of the problem while depleting our energy and sense of stability. By mindfully appreciating beauty, we can shift our focus from worry to wonder and increase wellbeing.
We can enhance our wellbeing and mental health long before the problem is gone by shifting our perspective and focusing mindfully on the beauty of our moment, allowing ourselves to experience a sense of awe. What we attend to and how we look at something are crucial. Our perspective helps determine whether we are crushed by obstacles or whether we thrive in spite of them. What we pay attention to and how we do it matters.
Mindfully Appreciate Beauty: Why Bother
Pausing to mindfully appreciate beauty doesn’t change a stressful situation. Instead, doing so gives us a break from the stress of it. It also gives us the space and opportunity to choose our response to a problem. This greatly reduces the power our problems have in our lives.
Perspective involves what we choose to focus on and how we do it. If we only see the negative, we become rooted in it, blind to everything else. If we train ourselves to seek the good in our lives, we become more balanced. Further, when we pay attention to the beauty in the moment, attending to it with our senses, we pull away from the anxious, stressful thoughts in our minds and into the pleasantness of the present moment.
Appreciation of Beauty is A Strength Inside Us
Positive psychology identifies character strengths that all people have (we all have each of the character strengths, in our own unique proportions and degrees). Appreciation of beauty and excellence, a component of perspective is one such strength. When we can find the beauty around us and understand that our world, our life, isn’t purely negative, we enhance our well-being.
Appreciation of beauty is valuable in its own right and as a tool that serves to motivate us to find and create more goodness. It even helps us rise above things like anxiety (Read The Relationship between Anxiety and Awe on HealthyPlace.). To do it:
- Notice when you feel stressed or anxious
- Look around you
- Find one thing, big or small, that you find beautiful in any way
- Pay attention to that one thing, the way it looks, sounds, feels, smells, and tastes (if appropriate)
- When your thoughts begin to wander to worries, gently shift your attention back to the object
- Appreciate its beauty and the smile it brings to you, inside and out
Do this mindfulness exercise often. When pausing to mindfully experience awe becomes a habit, wellbeing replaces the effects of stress and anxiety.