On a cold January morning, a man began to play the violin in a busy Washington, D.C., subway station. He played six different Bach pieces for a period of 45 minutes, as thousands of people streamed by. Some slowed down a bit to listen or drop some money in his violin case, but most shuffled past him in a rush to get to work. A mother and child walked by and the child tugged on his mother's arm to stop and listen to the music, but irritated, she dragged him on towards the train. When the violinist stopped playing, there was no applause, just the sound of footsteps down the corridor.
What nobody realized was that the man was Joshua Bell, one of the world's best violinists, and a performer who had sold out concerts at $100 a seat in Boston just two days before. In addition, he was playing some of the most sophisticated masterpieces ever written, on a violin valued at 3.5 million dollars. Yet, during the 45 minutes he played, a mere six people stopped to listen. This experiment, which was arranged by the Washington Post, is a stark reminder of how easy it is for us to get caught up in the day-to-day hustle and forget to appreciate the beauty in life.
Appreciation is one of the simplest foods for the soul, but one that many people neglect. We get so wrapped up in things like work, school, relationships and social obligations that we often take the good things in life for granted. Appreciation is about recognizing the beauty around you and the significance and value of things, no matter how small they may be. It is about noticing scents, smells, sounds, sights and tastes and recognizing how valuable each moment of your life actually is. Once you take the time to appreciate the things around you, you begin to live a more satisfying existence, one that is richer, deeper and more meaningful. Moreover, your physical body will benefit as well. By taking time out to appreciate the good things in your life, you will feel less stressed, which means you may also be less at risk of high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke.
How to Incorporate Appreciation Into Your Life
1. Slow down. Take the time to notice the sounds of the birds in the trees, the color of the sky and the scent of the air. Savor each bite of your food and enjoy the company of others without thinking about the future. When you slow down, you realize how much there is to appreciate in this world and you become more grounded and less anxious.
2. Remember that life is short. We don't have a lot of time on this earth, so make the most of it. Do things that make you happy, and live each day as though it were your last. When you do things that make you happy, your brain releases endorphins, which are powerful neurotransmitters that boost the immune system. So, by simply reminding yourself that life is short and doing things that make you feel good, you may actually lengthen your life.
3. Go for a walk. Make time each day to get outside and appreciate the things around you. Not only does walking give you a chance to clear your head and enjoy the beauty around you, but it is a good form of exercise, and as we all know, regular exercise can drastically reduce your chances of heart disease, diabetes and stroke.
4. Put things in perspective. No matter how bad your problems may seem, there is always someone else somewhere in the world who has it worse than you. Don't dwell on the negative. Instead, remind yourself of how good you actually have it.
5. Start a journal. Each day before you go to bed, write down five things that made you happy throughout the day. It can be anything from a simple smile from a stranger on the street to a beautiful sunset. This will remind and encourage you to appreciate the good things in life.
Appreciate and be grateful for all things that come to you, even the seemingly insignificant things and you may just live longer. When you are happy with yourself and your surroundings and living a life full of wonder, joy and laughter, your stress levels drop, your blood pressure and blood sugar levels become stabilized and your immune system gets a serious boost. Just that alone should be something to truly appreciate.
For the next three weeks, incorporate these simple action steps into your daily routine and watch the magic unfold.
For more by Dr. Cynthia Thaik, click here.
For more on happiness, click here.
For more by Dr. Cynthia Thaik on her website, click here.
For preview of her upcoming book: Your Vibrant Heart