How beauty can support a healthier, more meaningful and more integrated life

How often do you consider beauty? Or put yourself in the path of beautiful things to come?

This could include anything from sunset on your way home to budding magnolia in your driveway. It may also appear in the piano piece your child is learning for the first time or in your newborn’s smile. It could also involve a creative act that you are engaging in at work, such as a project that offers new opportunities for young homeless people or a new system that better supports your employees and their families.

What is “beauty?”

Our culture has many different perspectives on what “beauty” entails. As John O’Donohue said, beauty isn’t just about beautiful, lovely looking things or people. It is more about “an emerging fullness, a greater sense of grace and elegance, a deeper sense of depth and a kind of homecoming to the enriched memory of your unfolding life”.

I consider beauty here in this broader sense, referring to those relationships, projects and aesthetic experiences that divert our attention from our inner and restricted selves and towards states of admiration and amazement, stimulating our creativity and imagination and pushing us towards acts. of kindness and gratitude.

In our often rushed life, it is easy to pass by objects and experiences of beauty. We become so focused on moving on, reducing distress or trying to fix anything that seems messy in our lives that we don’t take the time to stop, reflect or admire. In fact, taking the time to appreciate and find beauty can actually promote our health, relationships, and well-being in a number of ways.

The benefits of beauty

Research shows that when we engage in expressive outlets such as music, dance, poetry and art, we can experience improved physical and mental well-being (Stuckey & Nobel, 2010). For example, the authors noted how expressive writing could contribute to numerous physical and mental health benefits, such as improved pain control and depressed mood.

The authors also shared how poetry plays an important role in the healing process. It helps people “find their voice and access the wisdom they already have but cannot experience because they cannot find the words in ordinary language.” “[A]The artistic expression of oneself “, they say,” could contribute to the maintenance or reconstruction of a positive identity “.

The authors also noted how art helps people express experiences that are too difficult to put into words, such as types of trauma or difficult health outcomes. Taken together, these expressive outlets open up the opportunity for self-expression that may not otherwise be felt or experienced through everyday words.

In addition to the arts, immersing yourself in the wonders of nature also supports our health and well-being. In a study of 20,000 people, researchers found that people who spent at least two hours a week in green spaces were more likely to experience good psychological health and well-being than those who did not (White et al., 2019) time to take short walks or visit local parks during the week can really make a difference, while providing rich opportunities to notice the beauty.

Beauty and interpersonal neurobiology

From the standpoint of interpersonal neurobiology, the mind is able to thrive when its domains are differentiated and linked, a process described as integration. This allows us to balance between states of chaos and rigidity, flowing like a river between these two extremes (Seigal, 2010).

Beauty encourages this process of integration, encouraging present moment awareness, attunement and emotional sensing between other people and objects. As our brains become more integrated, they are also more open to finding and creating beautiful things, relationships and experiences.

Engaging in expressive, artistic, and aesthetic experiences supports our mind’s ability to thrive. This is amplified when we can engage in such acts in the presence of a larger community and relationships with others.

Learn from children

Our desire to create and experience beauty begins long before we become adults. It is reflected in our stories about children’s early development and creative lives. Consider a child’s play, for example, which represents a crucial developmental expression. Under the best of circumstances, without trauma, abandonment or insecure attachment, a child’s play comes naturally to her.

She doesn’t need anyone to teach her how to do it. It gives meaning, purpose and life to inanimate objects and creates relationships with invisible people. Her imagination of hers leads her to create and express herself with joy, whether whatever she does makes sense to the rest of the world or not.

Give her a blank canvas and paint and watch her imagination run wild as she creates a new masterpiece with no instructions required. And then watch her as she gleefully lifts her finished artwork for her assistants to see. It is in our nature, even as little human beings, to notice, create and cultivate beautiful things and extend them to the world.

What would you look at today towards the experiences of beauty, in all its many forms? How could this simplify and enrich our often rushed and complicated lives? Try it yourself and watch, embracing one sunset, one song on the radio, or one sidewalk chalk creation at a time.

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