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9 Ways Beauty in Hard Times Improves Well-being

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At first glance, the terms “prepping” and “beauty” may seem mutually exclusive. I mean, who cares what we look like if the SHTF? I always envisioned putting my hair in a messy bun, hoisting up my overalls, and getting into the nitty gritty of survival. But the power of beauty in hard times to help us both survive and thrive cannot be underestimated. So while starting out in work clothes and a hair tie is probably exactly what will happen…for a while…we humans are remarkably resilient and beauty will be necessary again.

image: woman in striped shirt and overalls smelling a sunflower sitting on a yellow stepstool to illustrate beauty in hard times

Why Beauty Will Make a Comeback Even If SHTF

History demonstrates that we humans won’t stay in crisis mode for long. We adapt and normalize even the worst situations and then we try to incorporate things that make us feel better. We as humans actually long for beauty even and especially in the toughest times. Beauty becomes both a reminder of good days and a lifeline of hope for the future.

Beauty becomes both a reminder of good days and a lifeline of hope for the future.

What is Beauty?

I think it will be helpful to define “beauty” here. Broadly speaking, it is, “objects or experiences that give pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalt the mind or spirit.”

A sunset, great art, uplifting music, flowers on the table, a steaming cup of coffee, the smell of your favorite lotion or, yes, even the exact right shade of lipstick qualifies. A humble skincare routine can profoundly change our mood and outlook in times of deprivation or uncertainty. We actually need such things when the SHTF. That’s the power of beauty.

What is the ‘Lipstick Effect?’

This phenomenon is illustrated by something called the Lipstick Effect. During WWI, WWII, and the Great Depression, sales of lipstick and other inexpensive cosmetics dramatically increased. During times of the greatest deprivation and uncertainty, we suddenly cared more about looking good, not because we are superficial, but because it makes us feel good. In dark times, looking and feeling our best becomes more about mental health than some standard of superficial beauty.

Similarly, we watched the sales of home furnishings and remodels skyrocket during the pandemic shutdowns. It turns out we care what our surroundings look like when we are stuck in them 24/7. And even more so in times of anxiety and uncertainty.

All this to say, it’s important to acknowledge that we need more than just beans, bandages and bullets in a long-term crisis. Even now, focusing on things you find beautiful can help reduce the stress produced by our current headlines. Look for ways to include beauty in your routines and into your preps.

We need more than just beans, bandages and bullets in a long-term crisis.

Ways to Integrate Aesthetically Pleasing Elements with Prepping

Here are some ways to use beauty’s power for self-care. For a deep dive, read this post about holistically caring for your emotional and mental health.

  1. Establish a Self-Care Beauty Routine – This may be a simple moisturizer and sunscreen application, the occasional facial, or a daily make-up and hair routine. Research shows that self-care routines lift our mood and our outlook. It’s not hard to tuck an extra moisturizer or lipstick into your preps so you can always maintain some semblance of normalcy.
  2. Create an Appealing Environment. This covers the spectrum from art on a wall to flowers in a window box all the way up to a total home makeover. Whatever gives you a sense of well-being or peace when you look at it should be strategically placed in your home. And if those things aren’t possible or available, even a vase of fresh flowers or a scented candle can help the darkness recede.
  3. Collect Encouraging Quotes. Maybe this seems silly, but I have found that reading a few words of encouragement can help me take a breath and reset my attitude. I keep a folder on my computer with quotes that I find encouraging or life-giving so I can peruse them when I need a lift.
  4. Play Music (Classical is Even Better! ). Music always gives me a lift. It’s not uncommon for a sing-along or dance party to break out at our house when the music gets cranked up. Music has a profound effect on us. It can reduce blood pressure, pain, stress, and anxiety. It also improves sleep, mood, mental alertness and memory. Classical music especially shows astonishing benefits, but I think any music that makes you feel happier is a good thing.
  5. Enjoy Art for Art’s Sake. Recent studies show that our brains are almost universally pleased by symmetry, the Golden Ratio, and patterns. This helps explain why so many of us enjoy the same art and architecture. Art is just one of those things that is mysteriously more meaningful. Find ways to add a little art to your life and to your preps. Visit a museum, view art online, or check out a book from the library. I have several art books on my shelves in case there comes a time I can’t access art any other way.
  6. Read a Good Book. Books transport us to other worlds, times, and perspectives. A well-written book can educate, provoke or soothe. In my humble opinion, a world without literature is a poor world indeed. I have a Kindle, but also keep real books around in case of a grid-down situation.
  7. Create. We are so busy keeping up with technology these days we have fewer opportunities, or desire, to create something of our own. Dabble in art, music, crafts, baking, cooking, quilting, stories, poetry, jewelry, a centerpiece, woodworking, metalworking, and the list goes on. Part of being human is to be creative.
  8. Take a Walk. When worries or problems loom large, there is nothing quite like a brisk walk to put things in perspective. Physical exertion, deep breathing, and getting outside can be a quick and effective boost to mental health. It’s free and it’s right outside your door.
  9. Take Note of Small Things. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and simple things can often give us the most pleasure. The crackle of a fire, a honeybee sipping from a flower, the color of a perfectly sun-ripened tomato: these little things give shape and texture to our lives. Cultivate the habit of noticing those small things which give you satisfaction.

Final Thoughts About the Power of Beauty in Hard Times

During challenging times, finding moments of joy and pleasure can be essential for maintaining overall well-being. Harnassing beauty’s power by incorporating elements into our daily lives, such as admiring nature, enjoying art or music, or simply adding a touch of aesthetics to our surroundings, can have a powerful effect on our mood and mental health. Engaging with beauty can stimulate the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward, which can improve our sense of well-being and help us cope with stress and uncertainty.

By prioritizing sensory experiences that bring us joy, we can cultivate a greater sense of resilience and positivity, even in difficult times. Beauty is essential, but also objective. Find those things that please your senses and incorporate them, if possible, into your preps.

What are things that you think would give you a lift or a sense of normalcy in difficult times? Share them with us in the comments!

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Valerie Whittle. Over the years I have been an attorney and a homeschool mom–there is no question as to which is more fun. I now enjoy life with my husband of 29 years, assorted cats and dogs, and a garden.

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