Cultivating Beauty In Your Daily Life
Cultivating Beauty In
Your Daily Life
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why I’m so into pretty things.
It’s something I’ve struggled to get comfortable with my whole life.
There’s a lot of messaging out there that says pursuing beauty is frivolous—it’s vain to want to look beautiful, and it’s materialistic to want to surround yourself with beautiful things.
I’ve always been a person that loves exactly those physical manifestations of beauty—from the perfect lipstick (shout out to Boomstick Color®!) to great sheets, it’s something I’ve often judged myself for.
If I were a more serious person, that voice in my head says, I would care less about nice towels and good chocolate and care more about important stuff, stuff that matters.
But as I’ve gotten older I’ve come to realize beauty is stuff that matters.
I mean this both in a literal sense: looking at something beautiful, scientists tell us, triggers the same neural pathways as other forms of pleasurable behavior, like eating a great meal.
So those plush towels, the linen sheets, the refreshing eucalyptus candle I light when I’m taking a bath, all literally light up the pleasure centers in my brain every time I interact with them. I mean beauty is the stuff that matters in the sense that seeking out beauty leads to a richer and more meaningful life.
It’s not just about what happens in your brain when you absorb and experience beauty, it’s the way that tuning yourself to the frequency of beauty leads to greater presence and groundedness.
Here's an example: the other day I walked purposefully into the grocery store with my list in hand, then I got totally waylaid by the flower section at the front of the store.
It’s peony season—my favorite—and there was this absolutely jaw-dropping abundance of cut peonies for sale in all sorts of gorgeous colors.
I smiled as soon as I saw them, then took a few minutes to smell the ones that had already opened. Heaven.
I thought about how good the pale pink ones would look in a Talavera vase I have, which I bought a very long time ago on a trip to Mexico with my parents.
The idea of the pale pink of the blossoms against the blue and white of the vase made me smile, as did the memory of that trip.
I thought about placing those flowers in that vase on my dresser and watching them slowly open over the next few days. That was it.
I put the flowers in my cart and was about to move on to the practical items on my list when another shopper smiled at me and complimented the buds I’d selected.
She was adding a fuchsia bouquet to her cart. I thanked her and we chatted for a few moments before going our separate ways.
My flowers have now been on the dresser for a week. They smell incredible. They look beautiful in the vase.
And every time I see them—which is multiple times a day—I am awash with feelings of connection and gratitude.
That includes both memories of my parents and that special trip we took, and the much more recent pleasure of sharing a moment of intimacy with this stranger, who also happened to love peonies.
So much of life encourages us to just pass through. Get on with it.
That Tuesday morning at the grocery store might have passed into the distant, unremarkable pile of time I’ve spent on this earth that I no longer remember, except…it didn’t.
Seeking stuff for stuff’s sake is, indeed, a toxic practice, one that I have written about before and will write about again because I struggle with it.
But seeking beauty—that I’m leaning into for the rest of my days. Beauty is a pathway to presence.
How do you cultivate beauty in your daily life?
Elizabeth is a journalist who has been writing about health, beauty and wellness for over 20 years. She lives in Northern New Mexico with her two dogs and several hundred trees, shrubs, bushes and succulents.
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