by Melanie Carvell

What does it mean to be a “beautiful” person?

We often say a person is “beautiful, inside and out” or “beauty is only skin deep” or “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” When we have a particularly positive interchange with another person, we sometimes walk away wondering what it was that they brought to that interaction that left us feeling uplifted. Was it charisma? Beauty? Peace? Kindness?

When I think of people who leave me feeling inspired, one person who rises to the top is Sister Thomas Welder, past president of the University of Mary. She brings an amazing sense of presence to every interaction she is a part of. Sister Welder has the superpower of remembering names and—legend has it—knew by name all 2,000 or so students on campus. My guess is that every one of those students can tell a story about at least one encounter with Sister Welder that occurred on a campus sidewalk or at a campus event that left them with their chin higher and back straighter.  Do you think Sister Welder is simply more skilled at remembering people? Her ability to be mindfully engaged and present in her interactions is a superpower we can all work toward in our encounters and relationships. Even if we get a little better at being mindful, our relationships and our personal health can benefit in significant ways. We are much more likely to be an empathetic listener, better able to hear, comprehend, relate, and remember.

Mindfulness can simply mean setting down our juggling balls (and our phones!) for a moment and taking a few deep breaths when we are feeling anxious or overwhelmed. Mindfulness techniques, including meditation and deep breathing, are some of the best tools to manage stress, improve sleep, and avoid illness. The American Psychological Association recommends mindfulness and meditation as ways to decrease depression, anxiety, pain, migraines, and panic attacks. Mindfulness is “paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally,” according to Jon Kabat-Zinn, a Professor Emeritus of Medicine and the creator of the Center for Mindfulness Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Being mindful means staying in the present moment, so we don’t get caught up in replaying yesterday or worrying about tomorrow. Hanging onto the past saps our energy and worrying about tomorrow steals precious time from today. Being mindful helps us enjoy life while it’s happening, rather than missing out because of worry and busyness.  

How do you leave others feeling after they have crossed your path? Are you fully present in your daily interactions? Not being able to experience the present because you are running wild to the next moment is not the kind of energy that others enjoy being around. Mindful people bring a measure of peace to their relationships and are less likely to try to get the last word in, be reactive, or take things too personally. They understand all things come and go, and in tough times are likely to have a broader perspective that life does not revolve around themselves.

Do you share your beauty in a way to uplift and inspire others?  Of all the 43 people honored with the North Dakota Roughrider Award—the writers, the artists, the athletes, the giants in business—Sister Welder, the humble woman who made uplifting others her life’s work, may be the most beautiful. Being fully present and engaged with others is a gift that makes a lasting impression. The beauty of that gift is that when we are compassionate, forgiving, empathetic, and grateful, it changes us. And, as a result, people in our lives will very likely reflect those positive changes back to us, leading to a life that truly can be beautiful.   

Melanie Carvell lives in Bismarck with her husband, Charles, and her dog, Case. She is an author, health and wellness speaker, and grandmother of six. She loves sharing her fitness enthusiasm with others and hopes to see you in one of her cycling classes soon.