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Diane Dreher's Tao of Inner Peace Blog

The Transforming Power of Beauty

Cutting through today's chronic stress, moments of beauty can bring us into the present moment, healing our minds and bodies, restoring our hope.

 

Among the many studies of beauty and healing, University of Michigan psychologist Christopher Peterson found that a high appreciation of beauty helps people recover from anxiety and depression.[1] University of California, Berkeley, psychologist Dacher Keltner found that people who experience awe in response to nature's beauty have significantly lower levels of inflammation, reducing the risk of depression, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other illnesses. In fact, he found that the more often we experience awe, the lower our inflammation levels.[2]

 

Psychologist Rhett Diessner's research has shown that engaging with beauty can increase our hope. Diessner and his colleagues at Lewis-Clark State College in Idaho asked students to keep weekly beauty logs, writing brief descriptions of the beauty they observed in nature, art, and moral action. At the end of the semester, these students had gained significantly higher hope. [3]

 

Now it's your turn. Please join me for a brief meditation on these three forms of beauty.

  • Close your eyes and take a deep mindful breath
  • Feel your body gently relax as you slowly breathe in and breathe out.
  • Now think of something beautiful you've experienced in nature—a radiant sunset, a walk in the woods, the scent of pines, a view of the ocean, a playful moment with your dog or cat, new life emerging in your garden, or another beautiful encounter with the natural world. Pause to re-experience that moment of beauty as you slowly breathe in and breathe out.
  • Next think of something beautiful you've experienced in the arts—your favorite music, an inspiring choral concert, a live theater performance, a memorable film, a visit to an art gallery, gazing at classic sculptures or architecture, or another beautiful encounter with the arts. Pause to re-experience that moment of beauty as you slowly breathe in and breathe out.
  • Now think of something beautiful you've experienced in the moral action of kindness—seeing one person reach out to help another, doing a favor, holding the door open for someone carrying packages, helping a child learn to read, rescuing a lost dog, calling a friend, a time you gave, received, or witnessed  a caring action. Pause to re-experience that moment of beauty as you slowly breathe in and breathe out.

 

Pause for a moment to breathe in as you experience the feelings these memories bring up. Then gently open your eyes.

 

As you go through your days, make it a point to notice the natural, artistic, and moral beauty around you, for as research reveals, gaining greater hope is possible by simply observing and appreciating such beauty.Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote that "Each moment of the year has its own beauty."[4]

 

Each season, each day of our lives, has its own beauty as well. It is up to us to find it.

 

I wish you joy on the path.

 

 

 



[1] Peterson,C. Park, N., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2006). Great strengths of character and recovery from illness. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 1, 17-26.

 
[2] Stellar, J. E., John-Henderson, N., Anderson, C. L., Gordon, A. M., McNeil, G. D., & Keltner, D. (2015).Positive affect and markers of inflammation: Discrete positive emotions predict lower levels of inflammatory cytokines. Emotion, 15, 129-133.

 
[3] Diessner, T., Rust, T., Solom, R. C., Frost, N., & Parsons, L. (2006). Beauty and hope: A moral beauty intervention. Journal of Moral Education, 35, 301-317.

 
[4] Emerson, R. W. (1903).Nature. In Nature: Addresses, and lectures, (pp. 3-77). Boston, MA: Houghton, Mifflin and Company. Originally published 1876. Quote from p. 18.

 

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