Last week, I got a nudge when I read an article along the same vein in The New York Times (August, 17 2006) entitled "Is this what happiness looks like?" In it, the author lays claim to the importance of living space in shaping one's overall sense of well-being.
"In ['The Architecture of Happiness,' Alain de Botton] argues that physical environment is a crucial contributor to well-being. Like it or not, he suggests, the spaces we live in shape our sense of happiness and of self, so we had better choose them carefully."It seems to me an obvious deduction; who doesn't want to live in a beautiful space? But what exactly does a beautiful space look like? And how can we choose carefully if we don't even know what to look for? What if attaining that space is beyond our means? After all, beautiful can be as simple as broken sea glass or as intricate and extravagant as a baroque harpsichord. In any case, the article certainly got me to thinking, particularly due to my own recent relocation into an apartment that I consider the most personally fulfilling and functional in my entire living history.
Already, within the first few weeks of moving in, I've noticed my clenched-up self giving way to change. I'm now able to step back and breathe, to ponder situations before acting on them. I enjoy washing the dishes and taking out the trash. Doing laundry is now a ritual. Cooking, though always an important factor in my life, is a new creative outlet and source of personal accomplishment. Most importantly, I am able to sit down and just write, or read, with no other obligations weighing on my mind. Every action that I take has beauty and meaning and pause. And I say this with no exaggeration.
But I never would have guessed that the relatively simple act of changing homes would have such an impact on my personal happiness. I've always been somewhat comfortable in my surroundings, even though that comfortable always carried with it a yearning for something better—perfectly natural, I think, for someone who grew up moving from house to house, with little in terms of material things. The truth is—and we all know this—you don't necessarily know what you're looking for until you've found it. That should be some inspiration to those still searching for the key to kingdom—a space that fulfills through form and function—to look even harder or to work even harder at creating that space. That perfect space is out there, just waiting for you.
For me, it's windows with a view: the power of a beautiful sky is enough to awaken my senses as I begin my day, and to calm them down after long hours at work. My beautiful home is a quiet, simple place of light. I know that now.
But what does yours look like? And more importantly, are you happy?