The Simple Secret to Finding Beauty

The Simple Secret to Finding Beauty

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Adrienne Breaux
Jan 16, 2016

This is a pretty broad question, but take a moment to consider it: What do you find beautiful? A loved one's smile? A foreign city skyline? An exotic landscape? A Monet?

Do you ever question why you find beautiful things beautiful? You might a little, but most of us will take it at face-value — and trust our own opinions — when it comes to finding beauty in a natural setting.

Yet, when it comes to design — a sofa, a chair, a vase, a teapot — many of us still grapple with a lot of questions after the initial "Oooh" moment when we've spotted some decor or furniture piece that catches our eye.

Even when something has clearly grabbed our attention, we tend to question why we like it. We ask ourselves directly what it is that makes us like it. We wonder if it'll fit with our other decor. If it's something we need.

Mostly good, functional and useful questions. But if you really want to create a warm, personal home that reflects who you are this year by making sure you fill it up with stuff you really love, consider this secret:

→ Before you let any thoughts enter into your mind after spotting something that catches your eye, first notice what it is that you're feeling.

What actual physical reactions are you having? Which emotion(s) is this object stirring? Not can you afford it or will it complement your other stuff, but are the physical reactions you're displaying a sign of love?

→ Then? Trust that feeling.

If it does feel like beauty and love to you, consider bringing this object into your decor. And reconsider buying something when you find yourself ignoring the fact that you don't have feelings of love or are trying to think yourself into a purchase.

I was inspired by this way of thinking (or rather, feeling) by a recent rebroadcast of the TED Radio Hour NPR podcast episode What is beauty? Specifically the portion that interviewed designer Richard Seymour about his TED Talk, How Beauty Feels. Here's a excerpt of the transcript of that interview (conducted by the TED Radio Hour host Guy Raz):

"...I began to ask myself the simple question is, do we actually think beauty or do we feel it? I think it's about feeling beauty.

A lot of the brain is set aside not for thinking, and a lot of the brain is set aside for processing sensory input. And so it's not hardly surprising that we feel it before we think it because the wiring between our sensory apparatus into our brain is actually shorter than the more convoluted wiring that goes through our cognitive senses. So that means that the information arrives earlier and there are parts of our brain that deal with that and determine whether they're pleasurable or not.

RAZ: How do we know how to identify it?

SEYMOUR: Well, that's an interesting question. One thing we can go to quite sophisticated levels with brain scanning, and what have you, to see the electrical activity. But the most important thing is that we know it when we feel it. You know, you don't go, that is beautiful, in your mind, you go, mmmmm, and then, mmm, that is beautiful. So we should trust our senses, we should trust our feelings. ..."

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