Appreciating a beautiful sunset enriches your life beyond the moment.
A glorious sunset is the epitome of fleeting beauty. For a few minutes, the sky is a spectacle of color — and then it’s over. Yet the psychological effects of admiring the sunset may persist long after the color has faded.
Studies show that appreciating natural beauty may boost well-being, increase generosity and enhance life satisfaction. The key is to actively engage with the experience. To reap the rewards of that sunset, you need to stop whatever else you’re doing and really notice and appreciate the show in the sky.
Here are the top reasons why we need more sunsets in your life:
- Relaxation and stress relief. There is no better way to relax than with a sunset on the beach. Watching the pink and red skies transforming over turquoise waters that gently lap white sand beaches. Sunset lulls you in to a state of calm. While looking out on an expanding horizon that is so much bigger than yourself it makes your personal problems seem so small. Sunsets are great stress relievers. Let your worries sink in to the ocean like the setting sun.
- Emotional well-being. In general, people who feel connected with nature report being happier and having more positive emotions than those who don’t share this connection. Yet it’s clear that some people get more joy from an hour in the park than others.
A recent study led by Jia Wei Zhang at the University of California, Berkeley, helps explain why: Researchers found that connectedness with nature only predicted well-being in people who were attuned to the beauty of nature. Need to tune up your awareness of natural beauty? It’s hard to beat simply sitting outside and soaking up a stunning sunset.
- Concern for others. Another study by Zhang found that the positive emotions aroused by natural beauty led to increased prosociality — feelings and behaviors characterized by concern for others. In one experiment, volunteers first looked at pictures of nature scenes and then played a game, which allowed them to be generous or stingy about giving away points to other players. The nature images had been pre-rated to determine how beautiful people thought they were. Volunteers who viewed beautiful nature images gave away more points, compared to those who viewed less attractive pictures.
In short, it wasn’t just looking at nature that put people in a generous mood. It was perceiving the beauty of nature — and a sunset is a prime example of that.
- Satisfaction with life. Beauty enriches life, making it more rewarding. One study found that greater engagement with beauty was associated with higher levels of life satisfaction, gratitude and a spiritual outlook. The association was strongest for engagement with natural beauty, as compared to artistic beauty (such as a painting, symphony or poem) moral or beauty (such as an act of charity, loyalty or kindness).
One theory is that appreciation for the beauty of nature is so powerful because it’s instinctual rather than learned. There’s a natural tendency to stop and stare at a breathtaking sunset. When you do so, you’re likely to be caught up in the moment, and your mind gets a break from fretting over the past or worrying about the future. Afterward, you feel refreshed, and life just seems a little better.
- Ride Off into the Sunset. Some people find it easy to lose themselves in an awe-inspiring sunset. For others, slowing down to appreciate such a quiet experience doesn’t come as readily. The instinct to stop and stare may have been overridden long ago by the learned imperative to hurry up and get things done. Yet when you slow down to enjoy a sunset, you areaccomplishing some very important things. If your sunset-gazing skills are rusty, try this tip: Take several slow, deep breaths to relax your body and calm your mind. Then intentionally focus on the sunset, noticing how the colors and light change as the sunset first builds in intensity and then fades. To learn more about how vacations can keep you healthy go to davidnozar.com and order the book.