As I write this, I look out my office window at the greenness of spring in
oak trees have mostly leafed out, my crepe myrtle has the tiniest bronze
leaflets clinging to its bare limbs and I know in time it will bear ruffley
lavender flowers. A cardinal is visiting the bird feeder, his red feathers
bright against the greens and browns of the front yard. I’m listening to
acoustic guitar music on Pandora, and I have my window open to smell all that
green leafiness and hear the birds’ songs more clearly. Not only do I enjoy
looking and listening to the beauty around me, I find that it has a calming and
uplifting effect on my mood.
While most people would not argue that beauty is nice, is it something we all need? Best-selling author Piero Ferrucci thinks it is, and explores that topic in his book Beauty and the Soul: The Extraordinary Power of Everyday Beauty to Heal Your Life.
Ferrucci believes that beauty is an essential ingredient in a happy, healthy life. He writes, “Beauty plays a central role in our decision to be here. The more we can perceive beauty in our surroundings, and also inside us, the more we will feel at home and glad to exist. Some perceive beauty in the sound of rain and shape of clouds, in people’s faces and voices, in birdsong and the rustling of leaves. Some see it in modern design or ancient embroidered silk, in a cathedral’s stained glass or an advertising poster, in the flowering of intelligence or in altruism, in musical phrasing or the melodic rhythm of poetry, in the dynamism of a statue or the lightness of a dance. For such people the world is a place of great interest, of continuing amazement. Their relation with life is erotic: They are in love with life.”
Ferrucci also notes that contact with beauty makes us less angry and anxious, and that Swedish studies indicate that those who attended theater, movies, concerts and exhibitions have a greater chance of longevity. One explanation is that beauty stimulates the immune system.
Of course, beauty doesn’t just exist in cultural events and experiences. Beauty is everywhere—we just need to notice it. To improve our ability to seek and find beauty, Ferrucci suggests keeping a diary of what we find beautiful, slowing down and paying more attention to what is all around us (“Hurry usually obliterates all forms of beauty”), and removing the attitudes that hamper beauty (“I don’t deserve it, it’s a waste of time, there are better things to think about…”). As he notes, “Attention is nourishing. Anything we give our interest to grows and develops. Anything we neglect or ignore atrophies. Attention is like a spotlight on a theater stage. It gives emphasis. The world is what it is, but we provide the accent. We look for beauty, give it our vital interest, create space for it. Then beauty will proliferate for us.”
Beauty lifts up the soul, lightens burdens, gives hope and inspiration—all things we so desperately need in this world. If we seek beauty in our lives, we will add to our happiness.
What do you find beautiful? How can you add beauty to your days?