University of Oxford

Slow Down and Live Your Life: Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence

This day in age, it is common to spend your entire day going full speed from the time the alarm jolts you awake to the moment your head hits the pillow. Take a second to ask yourself: Am I living my life, or am I just racing to its end?

A simple way to slow down and enjoy life is to have greater Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence. Positive psychology researchers define this character strength as “the ability to find, recognize, and take pleasure in the existence of goodness” (Peterson & Seligman, 2004). So what does this strength look like? Let me share a story about when I was an exchange student in Germany. My host sister and I decided to go on a walk, so I started off at my typical brisk pace. Suddenly she grabbed my arm and stopped me in my tracks. “In Germany, we walk slowly; we look around and take in the beautiful sights”, she explained. As we walked arm-in-arm, our conversation shifted to discussion about architecture and nature. This change of focus made me more relaxed and helped us both enjoy the moment.

People naturally enjoy taking in sights like the Grand Canyon and Niagara Falls, but beauty and excellence is all around us in our daily lives. It might not be staring you in the face like the Wonders of the World, but if you start looking for beauty, you’ll be amazed at the things you’ve been passing by. When is the last time you gazed at the stars, listened to the black bird sing, watched the sunset, or stopped to smell the flowers?

Tanya Jacobsen has a Master of Applied Positive Psychology and is a Life Coach. Visit her website or email her for more tips on improving your life! Look out for more articles and a free seminar coming up this fall.

Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. New York:  Oxford University Press/Washington, DC:  American Psychological Association.

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