Last night I went out to dinner with a new friend and was amazed at how much he noticed and acknowledged so many things around him. It started with the person filling the water glasses… “Wow, look at that amazing hair” he said in amazement of the young man’s beautifully coiffed hair. Then it was the couple sitting in front of us at a show… “You two look so beautiful together, in fact your skin is glowing” he said with equal admiration as their smiles widened ear to ear. In both instances, the receivers of his acknowledgement suddenly looked happier and confident. For me, the entire evening was a marvel at the power of noticing.
What my friend does in spades is notice everything around him. So this morning on my walk through the woods, I challenged myself to just notice as many things as I could. I saw beautiful patterns in the bark of a Burr Oak tree. I saw the gentle arc of long blade of Indian Grass, heavy with fall seeds. I sat down on a curved log and noticed the tiny chirps of Goldfinches flitting about in the trees around me. And I noticed that my often boisterous inner dialogue was mostly quiet. The list grew longer as I slowed my gait and watched in fascination at the beauty around me.
Social psychologist, Ellen Langer has studied the physical effects of noticing – or what she calls mindfulness – with incredible results. In one experiment she details in her book “Counterclockwise,” she invited a group of elderly men to attend a retreat that was set up as if it were held 20 years in the past. By the end of the experiment, the men’s physical attributes were noticeably younger, more active and vibrant. What the men noticed around them changed their perspective on how they acted and therefore changed their physiology.
This week, I’m committing to noticing new things every day – about the air flowing around me, the look on people’s faces as they drive down the road and the changing autumn leaves. Like my new friend, perhaps I’ll make a small difference in someone’s life and they will pay it forward to someone else. Care to join me? For a great video about the power of validation, CLICK HERE!