We know that engaging with beauty works as an analgesic, reducing stress and increasing a sense of presence.
Surrounding yourself with beautiful things, immersing yourself in beautiful experiences, actively pursuing beauty in all kinds of ways can truly reshape your life. But there’s another level to this I hadn’t considered, which was pointed out to me by a reader.
In addition to seeking beauty in the world around us, she mentioned she’d like to hear more about generating beauty for ourselves, and by proxy, for others.
The first is a receptive act, it’s about being awake to the subtle magic of the world around us. The second is a more proactive approach, where you consciously put attention on being the source of beauty in the world.
I spent some time with this new directive—generating beauty for myself and others—and what I immediately noticed is how empowering it is!
There’s something about being an active participant in your own joy (and the joy of others) that amplifies and enhances the experience of being alive.
I’m just beginning to play with this, so I imagine this is not the last time I’ll write about it. But for now, here are three techniques I’ve noticed that help generate beauty in your immediate world…
1. Plant stuff.
This is the most obvious notion. You want to cultivate beauty? Plant flowers!
I’m a big believer in the restorative power of digging in the dirt, generally.
But there’s a different feel to the practice of gardening when you do it in service of a wider world.
I have an expansive garden, but it’s mostly contained behind my house. This week I planted a full array of fall-blooming flowers out in front of my gate.
Soon every UPS delivery person, every neighbor walking their dog, every car driving by will see sky-high sunflowers and hot-pink echinacea beaming at them.
2. Do someone a favor.
I have a friend who likes to say, “If you’re feeling blue find a house you can help paint!” Being proactively useful is an incredibly powerful creator of beauty.
For me, this looks like picking one day a week where I ask, at random, if anyone I know needs help with something practical.
Since beginning this, I’ve grocery shopped for a friend who had family in town and was too stressed to get to the store.
I’ve driven another friend to a doctor’s appointment she was nervous about, and gone as another friend’s plus-one to her ex-mother-in-law’s memorial service.
In each instance, the friend would never have asked for the favor, but because I volunteered, their days got a little bit lighter and so did mine.
3. Make “fancy dinner.”
My granddaughter loves to make things “fancy.”
Sprinkles on top of ice cream is “fancy” ice cream.
A braid is a “fancy” ponytail. When we play Madonna in the car on the way to camp it is a “fancy” drive. It’s in this spirit that I started inviting my granddaughter and assorted family and friends over for “fancy dinner.”
To be clear, this is a regular dinner, with just a little extra attention to luxe detail.
We use the nice plates that otherwise gather dust in the cabinet. We eat by candlelight.
And my granddaughter and I use “fancy” glitter markers to write place cards for all our guests.
Do you see yourself as a source of beauty in your immediate world? How so?
And if you give one of these techniques a try, I would love to hear how it went!
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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