With the daily grind of work and responsibilities, who has time to see theflowers growing through the pavement? The busyness of life can cause us to adopt a tunnel vision, and this narrowed view makes us focused on getting to work as quickly as possible with minimal interaction with the world, or using our lunchbreak to make a dash to the supermarket so there’s something on the table for dinner. Sure, it’s efficient but does it nourish the soul?
Relax, we’re not suggesting you place a dreamcatcher above your desk or give everything up to start a biodynamic kale farm. When dealing with the seemingly overwhelming notion of finding the beauty in everyday life, the first and perhaps most crucial step lies in lowering your expectations and adjusting your sense of scale.
Most of us are not privileged or lucky enough to see staggering sunsets, experience windowpane-rattling orgasms or wander around art galleries every day. But that’s not to say that real, soul-stirring beauty doesn’t surround us on a daily basis. You just have to know where, how and when to look.
Make friends with a tree
“It’s important to see the beauty in everyday life as it creates positive emotions, which in turn diminishes stress,” meditation and mindful leadership teacher Carolyne Gowen, from Still Your Mind, says. “The more you train yourself to do this, you’ll be better able to see the good in everything.”
This writer has the attention span of a 10-year-old child hyped up on red cordial – hey look, a rabbit; isn’t schadenfreude the best word ever? I like purple – but if I can find a way to set up a ritual of enjoying a few seconds of beauty every day, so can you.
For me, it came down to a tree. Not an especially beautiful one – just the standard council-maintained job you’d find on Australian streets. This tree’s one standout feature is that it responds to the changing seasons. For three months of the year, I take a second or two to look at the green shoots, for the next three months it’s the verdant leaves, and so on, focusing on the burnished leaves and then its austere bareness. Each season has its own beauty and every day on the way to work I take it in. I often do this without even stopping but for those five seconds I can get into a “well, isn’t that pretty” headspace. That’s all you need to dedicate – a single moment.
Focus on your cup of coffee
Beauty can even be found in your daily cup of coffee, according to Gowen. “Placing your wareness on the small aspects of your life that we often write off as inconsequential can actually be valuable to your sense of wellbeing,” she says.
“Smell the aroma of your cup of coffee or tea, feel the hot cup in your hands, notice the taste in your mouth, feel the warmth of the liquid as it enters your body.”
All of these contain their own sense of beauty, not least for the fact that each is a reminder that you have the senses to experience them but also that many people would consider your daily necessity a luxury. Rather than mindlessly sipping your morning cuppa or staring blankly out the window on tomorrow’s work commute, take the time to find a deeper appreciation of your experience.
Tune into all your senses
Noticing the detail in a tree is just one example of beauty awareness in practice. It could be anything from peeling paint on a fence and a friendly neighbourhood cat to a baby on the train or the scent of jasmine overhanging a fence. You’ll be more likely to encounter beauty in daily life if you broaden your definition of what beauty is. It could be the taste of new-season fruit, the feel of sunlight on your skin, the sound of that busker by the train station, the smell of your favourite candle.
It’s a willingness to look around you and use all your senses until those pleasure receptors in your brain light up. Choose a moment and explore each of your sense’s reaction to find that spark of pleasure.
If you’re not the spontaneous type, schedule moments of beauty with aplaylist to listen to on the way home, find some YouTube clips that make you feel uplifted or enjoy a decadent bath after a tough work day.
Look at your loved one with fresh eyes
In addition to seeking out small objects of beauty, Gowen suggests you also try looking at more significant ones in a new way. You can start with the person sharing your bed. “When you’re with your partner, focus on what you really love about them, look past their ego and notice the divinity within them,” Gowen says. OK, divinity may be a stretch but it’s all too easy to forget about the inner beauty of your partner, family and friends. Try looking at them for a few seconds and reflecting on what they bring to your life.
Stuck for inspiration?
As with anything that’s worth pursuing, finding beauty in the everyday will have its challenges. For some, this new way of looking at the world will click into place almost instantly. For others, it’ll be like catching butterflies with a pair of chopsticks (at first). If you’re stuck for inspiration, check out the website beautyintheeveryday.com where users post little moments that provided them with a shot of joy that eclipsed their stress.
The more you practise raising your awareness of beauty, the better you’ll get at it.
Or in the words of British writer Roald Dahl: “Above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places.” Just keep your eyes and ears open.