Finding Happiness in Beauty
Updated: Mar 17
The world is full of beauty and ugliness, wretchedness and magnificence, charm and disgust. If we didn't have both, we couldn't truly appreciate beauty for what it is and the happiness that it brings us.
A statistical analysis by professor Abraham Goldberg and an app study by George MacKerron found that beauty can initiate happiness. It was found that people reported higher levels of happiness when experiencing moments of beauty, such as attending the ballet, visiting an art museum, participating in an artistic activity, etc.
To put it in perspective, let's look at Alain de Botton's book The Architecture of Happiness. Here he compared what one feels when they walk into a McDonald's versus walking into a beautiful cathedral. I'm sure you can relate. Walking into a McDonald's, with its harsh colors, uncomfortable seating, and fast-paced vibe, can make one feel anxious; they certainly aren't stopping to enjoy the scenery around them. Whereas when one walks into a beautiful cathedral, one experiences a sense of serenity. You feel at peace as you walk around and take the time to stare up at the stain-glass windows.
While you are content to satisfy your hunger with a Big Mac, you feel true happiness after experiencing such beauty.
A common explanation, which has studies to back it up, is that beauty is an evolutionary trait that has signaled success throughout history. Beauty is often seen as a sign of good health, greater reproductive success, and a higher chance of economic achievements. Being beautiful has historically come with a lot of perks, which translates to how we view the world around us. While society's standards are changing to be less about beauty and more about who we are on the inside, it doesn't mean that we can't take advantage of this evolutionary trait to boost our happiness.
How can we do that? It's simple, take the time to enjoy the beauty around you, whether that means admiring a building's architecture, smelling a flower, or taking a trip to a charming town. You can even create beauty in your everyday life by putting up a tapestry, planting a garden, or doing a home improvement project. So, today, take a moment to appreciate something beautiful in your life.