I had the opportunity a couple of years ago of chatting with an older man who, despite going through some immense suffering in his life—and I mean the real deal suffering, like massive health issues, becoming an orphan, going through war, losing all his material wealth, losing a child—was the most cheerful and optimistic person I have ever met. Intrigued, I asked him how he managed to retain this temperament when so many others who have been dealt much more generous cards succumb to negativity and pessimism.
He smiled and recited a quote attributed to Helen Keller: “Keep your face to the sun and you will never see the shadows.” It’s a great saying, a version of which I myself have used on this blog; but what did it look like in practical terms?
According to my friend, it’s all about daring to look at everything that surrounds us with the conscious intention of seeing beauty (which reminded me of the story of how Jesus Christ saw the beauty of a dead and rotting dog’s white teeth). According to him, it takes daring, if not courage, to change the way we think. It might not seem like a big deal, but going from being a pessimist to an optimist, however beneficial, is a difficult, uncomfortable journey that many abandon, finding it easier to remain mired in their unhappiness.
This advice has been with me since then, and I try to use every means I can think of to consciously see the beauty that surrounds me. With the multiplication of social media platforms, it has become so much easier to do so. With the magic of Pinterest especially, it has become even easier to create a space where beautiful images can be put together and strength drawn from their beauty when needed.
I personally have a couple of boards I put together for the express purpose of helping me consciously appreciating the beauty that surrounds us. In one of them, I post, quite simply, beautifully designed inspirational quotes. During one particularly difficult time of my life, I used all of these images as my desktop background and boy did it help. Another one of my boards is dedicated to beautiful doors from around the world. The symbolism of a door (a portal to something new) makes the breathtaking beauty of the ones in this board even more potent.
Art can be quite the ladder to the soul; I have playlists meant to cheer me up, but I also have a couple of boards dedicated to specific arts that fill my heart with joy. One is of my friend Shirin Sahba’s beautiful and intricate paintings; the other is of colouring book images, both not completed and those that have been filled out.
I also have two new boards I would love some help with. The first is intended to be filled with pictures of architecture and historical sites from around the world, while the second with pictures of nature, both raw and manipulated by man (i.e. gardens!). I also would love to hear about other ways social media platforms can be used as tools to lead a happier life!
Picture courtesy of Death to the Stock Photo.