A Little Bit Of Appreciation Goes A Long Way
This is the most important mediator of happiness in cities
Without a doubt, the best thing that you can do for yourself and others is taking care of yourself. So much of the rest of our life, including our relationships, depends on our sense of well-being and happiness.
Yet many of us are time-poor, so that our personal needs get pushed aside in the busy-ness of everyday life.
While it’s important to regularly practice self-care, there’s a simple trick that can help us improve and maintain well-being even during those stressful periods when other needs take precedence. It won’t take hours out of your week, it simply involves regulating your emotions. When you intrinsically control your own emotional state, it improves almost every aspect of your life.
Have you ever noticed that you tend to get a lot more done when you’re feeling upbeat and happy?
Research shows that we think better when we feel better.
Our heart, mind and the rest of our body are in synchrony and work more effectively. Our brain can more easily go into alpha mode, that state of flow where we’re able to do our best work. We are more relaxed and more loving. We’re more willing to share and do nice things for other people. We are more affective, with more energy to tackle whatever challenges life hurls at us.
Because we’re feeling so good about things, get more done and connect more fully with ourselves and others, we feel even more positive emotions and become more affective.
In 2013, researchers showed how a simple practice to generate positive emotions improved social interactions and physical health. This led to further increases in happiness and well-being.
Simply by improving the way we feel, we create benefits across other aspects of our life and experience greater well-being, a cycle which reinforces itself over and over again, creating an upward spiral of happiness and well-being.
It’s a cycle that we can start by first achieving small moments of happiness.
A 2014 sudy revealed that the most important mediator of happiness for people living in cities is the aesthetic qualities of where they live. A further study found that, after sex, the next three activities that made people happy were related to appreciation of beauty; performing arts, a trip to the museum or art gallery and doing artistic activities.
Appreciation of beauty induces feelings of awe, wonder and elevation; feelings which take us out outside ourselves, connect us with others and put things in perspective. We feel hopeful, inspired and in charge.
The benefits of time in nature have been found to be mediated by our perception of beauty; there’s a direct correlation between the psychological benefits of nature and appreciation of natural beauty, though we can increase our appreciation of natural beauty over time through frequent exposure.
But researchers have found that there are different sorts of beauty that we can appreciate; artistic, moral, physical. In fact, as Alexander Nehmas states “beauty is the object of love”. We don’t have to go to the theatre or into the wilderness to appreciate beauty. Anything that we value or care about can be viewed as beautiful; we just have to flick the cognitive switch that allows us to do so.
The way to do this is to live in the moment. Slow your mind down, notice the small details and appreciate them. Pay attention to the emotions of those around you by acknowledging and appreciating them. Even when someone else is going through an emotionally turbulent time you can do this — just take care to maintain your sense of self; don’t take their emotions on as your own. Congratulate others on their achievements and progress.
Take satisfaction in the small, seemingly mundane tasks that you yourself do — you will be surprised by how much calmer and happier you will feel after doing something as simple as making your morning coffee with care — and then appreciating its aromas and flavours as you drink it. Recognise your own achievements and inner beauty. In time, this will all become second nature.
By focusing on the small moments, the simple details, appreciating the beauty in all that life offers, you will make a big impact on your well-being.