I was reminded of this recently watching a fascinating TED talk 'Cloudy with a chance of Joy' about the Cloud Appreciation Society: http://www.ted.com/talks/gavin_pretor_pinney_cloudy_with_a_chance_of_joy.html
Do watch it. You'll love it.
I'm a regular beach walker. In the first couple of years of living near a beach, I was entranced by the patterns created in the sand by the lapping waves, the shifting weeds and pebbles and the creatures that burrow under the sand. I took thousands of photographs and marveled at how different my familiar stretch of beach looked every single day.
Then one day as I paddled in the shallows, I looked up. The shift in my perspective, not just of this beautiful place where I live but of my entire life, was palpable. Suddenly, my world felt full of possibility. It was breathtaking. Blue sky thinking, it's called. Of course!
You don't have to have a beach to walk on, or even a blue sky, to enjoy this phenomenon. I can recommend it for simply becoming present to what's around you, for getting out of your head into the here and now and 'anything's possible'. That always feels better, even if its just for a moment or two and can be an invaluable circuit-breaker from worries and concerns rattling around in our heads, causing physical stresses in our bodies.
Looking up is also great for those times when we lose our mojo, or sense of direction or purpose in life - often the same thing. It is easy to momentarily lose confidence and feel confused about who we are or why we're here. It's not surprising that we feel 'down'' or 'flat' at these times. Taking a moment to look up at the sky, the clouds, the moon, the stars, the ceiling, beyond the horizon, into the branches or foliage of a tree can literally lift our mood by allowing us to see a bigger picture, putting our personal concerns into perspective.
When you're in review or reappraisal mode, looking up can be invaluable too. Never underestimate the power of physically moving in the direction you want to go at such times. I mean literally going forward, walking where it's also safe to look up at the same time (without falling over or putting yourself in danger). It's no surprise that I have all my best ideas walking on the beach looking at the sky above the hills in the distance.
Looking up can be illuminating in other ways. Some years ago, I started a business taking people on heritage walking tours around Adelaide. The genesis of this business was an early morning walk through the inner-city streets to meet a friend for breakfast. Because it was a fresh, uncluttered time of day and the city was only slowly coming to life, I looked up and around as I walked the familiar pavements and noticed things I'd never seen in the hustle and bustle of daily life. This gave me a sense of excitement and newness about my home town. It was an exhilarating way to start the day.
Many thousands of other people thought so too as they joined me over the next few years in early morning (and other) walking tours. We found dates and other fascinating clues to the history of well-known buildings carved into their pediments and window moldings high above street level. We ogled the intricate designs of balcony railings and ceiling decorations. We learned about local trees and bird-life because we took the time to stop and look up. We developed an appreciation of Adelaide, its built heritage and its natural environment that enriched the quality of all our lives. Try this next time you go traveling. Looking up above street level adds a new dimension to the appreciation of any place.
We fill our lives and often struggle to gain balance and harmony as we spend increasing amounts of time looking across or down at screens, large and small, frantically trying to stay connected to the world, our friends and families and workplaces.
Looking up is a physical, drug-free, cost-neutral antidote. I was going to say quick, too but the longer you spend looking up, the better you feel. Slow is good but quick will work too.
It's such a simple thing to do and can have quite profound results. Try it.