Nature and Beauty make you feel happy and it creates a psychological impact on health and behaviour.
Article By Sarah Hampson
I have a friend who is next to impossible to go for walk with in the spring or summer. “Look,” she will instruct, stopping dead in her running shoes. “See how beautiful this gladiolus is?” And of course, you have to stop alongside her and admire the texture and the colour and the height of the flowers. What are you, anyway? Some power-walking obsessive who doesn’t know how to smell the proverbial roses?
It turns out that identifying and appreciating beauty in the everyday is a happiness strategy. Some spiritual leaders advocate it as a way to feel divine energy. Martin Seligman, author ofAuthentic Happiness and Flourish, listed it as one of the 24 psychological character traits that make for happy, functioning people. It allows us to experience awe and wonder – to be elevated.
Great, but is that even possible in this dreary limbo of shortening days, after the glory of fall but before the festive season gets fully under way? To think about beauty in ordinary life, I asked five well-known Canadians to tell me (or write) about a recent instance of wonder. Two weeks ago, a friend of mine invited me over to see a new painting he’d just bought. I’d been feeling exhausted, and so when my friend phoned, I grudgingly agreed to go over.
The painting, Crossing the Strait, by the B.C. artist Takao Tanabe, depicts a seascape at night, a view of a blackening ocean just before the light dies, and is viscerally beautiful. Maybe because it so perfectly reflected what goes on outside my window on a dark November day, I was utterly haunted by it. But rather than dwelling in such darkness, rather than brooding on the faltering of the season, the day’s sense of ending, Tanabe finds a vein of light in the sky that is perfectly reflected in the water, creating a visual path for the eye to trace, a kind of compass suggesting both hope and the possible. The painting is more, much more, than a meditation on death, as some critics have suggested. It becomes instead a meditation on life, on living, on being alive in the brief time that is our own. I stared at it a long time. And I left feeling grateful, heartened, refreshed.
Recently, my husband and I went to see Jez Butterworth’s Jerusalem in London’s West End. The performance by Mark Rylance was startling. It makes me so happy just to even think about it now. The show itself was enormously tragic. He plays Johnny Byron, a wreck of a man held together by drugs and drink. But it was overwhelming. He worked entirely with the audience – theatre is a two-way street – and he was open-hearted and you felt that he was just there giving everything he had. It was such a gift. I don’t know if I’ve ever been in a room with such generosity.