Written by : Ryan Niemiec, Psy.D. 

Appreciate the Beauty All Around You

As part of our special bi-monthly series on Character Strengths, we are highlight the 24 strengths (your best innermost qualities) outlined by the VIA Institute on Character, and discussing how to better apply them in your everyday life. To take the free survey and find our your own top strengths, click here.

If you are quick to express wonder at the blueness of the sky or the curving architecture of a downtown building, or you notice the skill and the artistry of athletes at a sporting event and not just the numbers on the scoreboard, appreciation of beauty and excellence may be one of your prominent character strengths.

Man looking at a paintingPeople high in this strength realize that each moment is unique and try to savor every second. This appreciation will also make you more susceptible to positive emotions such as awe, wonder, admiration and elevation. You might notice awe and wonder when you are surrounded by nature or when you view a piece of art. Likewise, you feel admiration for an Olympic athlete shattering expectations and records with grace and precision.
The least-known emotion, elevation, occurs when you witness kindness or bravery in action that leads to a warm feeling in your chest, positive tingling in your arms and the motivation to pay it forward.
Research shows you can boost your appreciation of beauty and excellence, and in so doing, enhance your well-being. Try one of these strategies:

1. Build Wonder

Look for beauty in the little things. Anyone can marvel at a striking sunset or a stunning mountain landscape, but challenge yourself to appreciate beauty in the little things: One leaf, swaying back and forth, as it falls from a tree; the light that fills a person’s eyes as they begin to smile; two people talking and connecting at a bus stop as you drive by. As we begin to appreciate these little things, we realize that life is a collection of tiny moments. We can see and experience them or we can miss them.

2. Build Awe and Admiration

Place yourself in environments where you’re most likely to be filled with awe and admiration. For example, spend time regularly in nature, in art museums, at sporting events or volunteering. While there, allow yourself to fully appreciate the experience.

3. Build Elevation

Rewatch a movie or TV show that you found especially inspiring because of the goodness of one or more of the characters. Allow yourself to feel the emotion of elevation as you observe people doing positive, strengths-based actions for others. Afterward, try to spread your own kindness and compassion.

Read more about character strengths: 3 Ways to Find the Funny in Everyday Life

RYAN M. NIEMIEC, Psy.D., is a licensed psychologist, certified coach, author and Education Director of the VIA Institute on Character, in Cincinnati, Ohio. His latest book, Character Strengths Interventions: A Field-Guide for Practitioners, was released early this year. For more, visit viacharacter.org.

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