Most of us now have a daily ritual of recharging our phones and other devices. We might charge them overnight or throughout the day when we’re running out of power. It’s become a routine part of everyday life. It is now a daily habit -brushing our teeth, walking the dog, charging our phone.
But a more important, yet often overlooked, need is to recharge ourselves. I’m not talking about just re-energizing our physical bodies through nutrition and exercise but recharging our spirits.
All the advances in technology, globalization and other positive developments in our world today, may be coming with a huge price tag of an increasing amount of stress, burnout and anxiety. According to the American Institute of Stress, 83% of US workers suffer from work-related stress. Americans are among the most stressed-out populations in the world. Over a quarter of employees are at risk of burning out in the next 12 months.
Drawing from Gallup’s 2019 data on emotional states, 55% of the American population experience stress during the day. This is 20% higher than the world average of 35%. In 2018, a third of US-based respondents visited a doctor for something stress-related.
This research only covers work related stress. When you add on family issues, health, challenges, relationship and financial problems, and other stressors of day-to-day life, clearly stress is taking a toll on our happiness and satisfaction in life.
From my own experience in a high-powered corporate job, I quite unexpectedly discovered the antidote to stress. It came in an unlikely conversation with my boss who noticed that something seemed off. In my 20’s and 30’s life was consumed by working (days, nights, weekends), going to the gym and looking for Mr. Right. I was trying to follow what I thought were the rules for success- get an education, work hard, do your best, be responsible. But there was no space for anything else. In my search to find success, I lost myself.
One particularly challenging day, my boss gave me some life changing advise. He offered, these words of wisdom, “You need something besides work and men because you can’t control either one of them”. What he was saying, in a gentle way, was “Get a life”. He encouraged me to find something outside of work that would restore me, something that would replenish me in the face of circumstances of life were beyond my control.
It sounded like a good idea, but I didn’t know exactly what that would look like. Soon after that, I discovered the key. Beauty. I began painting and developed a heightened appreciation of the beauty all around me. It felt so good. A connection to beauty became a mental escape from all the endless mind-chatter and stress so that I could just BE in the joy of life.
I learned beauty can restore us. And we all need that. Beauty restores our souls. You don’t need to create art, as I do now, to enjoy the healing benefits of beauty. You can simply view a piece of art you connect with or seek out some beauty in nature.
Piero Ferrucci, author of Beauty and The Soul, put it this way,” Beauty is the affirmation of life. What is more, beauty grounds us in life and in the body. “The more we can perceive beauty in our surroundings,” says Ferucci, “and also inside us, the more we will feel at home and glad to exist.”
I find one of the paradoxes of Beauty is that it elevates us above the fray of everyday life while at the same time it helps us feel grounded. I’m not sure how that happens, but I know it to be true.
In a Psychology Today article. Dr. Diane Dreher adds: “Focusing on beauty not only helps us feel better, it actually helps us deal with stressful problems. Research has shown that shifting our attention to beauty is much more effective than constant worry. While filling our minds with rumination only increases stress, undermining our health and our ability to think clearly, focusing on beauty produces positive emotions that restore our peace of mind and build our capacity for resilience. Finally, research has shown that turning our attention to something beautiful can increase our hope, making us more resourceful, more able to deal with life’s challenges”.
The endless to do list, the boss who wants everything done yesterday, the traffic jams and the 14 devices all sending alerts that you have notifications are not going to go away any time soon. But now you have a healthy and powerful tool to counteract that.
Now is the time to make space for beauty in your life. Start today. Connecting to beauty doesn’t need to take a lot of time. It could be as simple as having a live plant or flowers on your desk, enjoying a beautiful and meaningful piece of artwork in your home or office, or taking a few breaths of fresh air during a short lunch break at work.
Make enjoying a few minutes of beauty for yourself a daily habit. You charge your phone every day. And this is so much more important.