Do you regularly appreciate the beauty in everyday moments? Are you living with an awakened sense of all your senses – seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, tasting as much of the world as you possibly can – and appreciating all you discover? If so, you’re someone living with what philosopher Bertrand Russel calls “zest”?
“What hunger is in relation to food, zest is in relation to life,” says Russel.
Russel believed that life could never be boring to a person who’s cultivated the habit of zest – someeone who lives with attentive curiosity to the details of life. As a result, Russel believed that a common denominator among all happy people is “living with zest.”
You know you’re living with the habit of zest if you purposefully choose the scenic route to wherever you are going. Or you choose clothing because you love the texture of the fabric. Or you pick a shampoo or cleaning product because you love the smell – smell being just as important to you as how the product works. Or, you’re likely to notice the interesting shadows a vase makes on a table – or how clouds are shaped like a heart or a horse. Or you notice the music in restaurants – sometimes commenting on it to people. Or you notice people’s voices – if they have warm voices or interesting accents – which then makes you curious about what their voice might mean about them ! Or, you’re the kind of person who – if ever you were called to a police line up – you’d be able to recognize some of the strangers’ faces you see around you during a day – like the people waiting in line with you for coffee, or the face of your waitress at lunch.
All of this reminds me of what Nobel Prize winning scientist Daniel Kahneman shares. Kahenman says that we all experience about 20,000 individual “moments” in a day. According to Kahneman, each of these individual “moments” lasts a mere few seconds. When you’re fully present – being mindfully in the now – you’re able to appreciate more of these “moments” in time – instead of letting them become a blur in time. What Khaneman calls “mindfulness” is in many ways what Russel considers “zestfulness.” In both cases, when you’re able to live mindfully/zestfully in the now, you’re not being tempted to get sidetracked by regrets about the past or worries about the future – meaning you’re increasing your joy in the present!
Personally, I believe people who have a lots of memories are people who are living with zest. After all, when you have a memory it’s because you’re taking the time to appreciate being in the “now” – because this is the only way you can notice the details around you – if you are fully in the now. And in this time which you take to stop and be in the now – to zestfully smell the flowers – or zestfully stare at that stranger’s interesting face – or zestfully appreciate the taste/smell/colors of a magnificent meal – you are freeze-framing this moment for your memory’s photo album, instead of allowing it to simply blur on by you. For these reasons I also believe that the less memories you have in your life, the more likely you are to be speed-forwarding through each moment – not living in the now which is the opposite of living with zest!
IN SUMMARY: If you want to love your life more – you can begin by living and loving more of it – by zestfully living and loving every teeny-tiny, gorgeously-detailed minutiae moment!
YOUR ASSIGNMENT: Cultivate the habit of zest. Purposefully seek out the beauty in the seemingly trivial. Especially in the trivial. The colors and shapes of the foods you eat. The shadows a vase makes on your table. The interesting faces of the people on the bus with you. You will not only experience more happiness on a daily basis, but a month from now you will be able to look back and have more happy memories to appreciate.