Most of us would admit to finding a sunset somewhat moving and possibly inspirational. Few of us can walk past a beautifully red and purple sky without stopping to take a look and probably upload a picture to Instagram.
The same can be said of star-filled skies and crashing waves.
But what is it about nature that we find so beautiful and so inspirational? Why are poets, artists, and musicians drawn to these scenes? And how can you use this to encourage more creativity in your own life?
Why We Find Nature Beautiful
It’s a mistake to say that we find nature beautiful in particular. In fact, we can just as easily experience a sense of awe looking at man-made things. Try climbing to the top of a high building and looking out over the skyline of a city, and see how you feel. Likewise, many of us would express a sense of awe looking at the pyramids.
We feel awe, reverence, and wonder when we see things that we find hard to fathom and that we can’t quite take in all at once. Things incredibly intricate, incredibly beautiful, or incredibly vast all create a sense of being small in a university full of incredible possibilities.
Research shows that this is a universal feeling, even shared by some animals, and that it appears to be beneficial for any species as a whole as it encourages altruism and community. Researchers often call these moments ‘peak experiences’.
Where the Inspiration Comes In
So why does this lead to inspiration?
The key thing to recognize is that peak experiences involve novelty and scale. They light up lots of areas of our brain as we struggle to comprehend the entirety of what we’re seeing. This lighting up of the brain results in lots of memories, ideas, and thoughts flowing all at once and this is often said to be the perfect condition for ideas to emerge.
At the same time, beautiful scenes and majestic sights trigger the release of neurotransmitters that make us feel relaxed and exhilarated at the same time. Again, this puts us in a state that is conducive to creative thought and mental experimentation.
How to Harness Peak Experiences
So how do you harness these peak experiences to trigger more innovation and creativity in your life? One way to do this is to subject yourself to more beauty. Go on walks, travel the world, even just spend some time on Google images! Another is to try and appreciate the majesty in even your smallest moments.
When you see a flower bloom for the first time, or when you see a swarm of bees, stop to think of all that it represents and of the intricate beauty therein. The greatest poets are those who can see inspiration in all they survey.