Jenny Odell on how to pay attention : Life Kit When you're in a familiar place, it's easy to go on autopilot and fail to notice the small joys that surround you. Artist and author Jenny Odell shares tips on how to pay attention to and appreciate what's right in front of you.

How paying attention can help you appreciate what's right in front of you

How paying attention can help you appreciate what's right in front of you

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This comic, written and illustrated by Connie Hanzhang Jin, is inspired by a Life Kit episode featuring Jenny Odell and hosted by Andrew Limbong. You can listen to the audio at the top of this page.

You know when you go on vacation and you notice every little detail about the place you're visiting? The statues! The billboards! The flowers bursting through the cracks in the sidewalk!

Humans pretty much do the opposite of that when they're in a familiar setting, going on autopilot and failing to notice the small delights of home. It doesn't have to be that way. Artist and author Jenny Odell shares tips on how to practice paying attention and appreciate what's right in front of you.

"We have a natural curiosity and it's just unfortunate that the structures of life and many different factors kind of cover over that and you have to find ways of rehabilitating it," says Jenny Odell, author of 'How To Do Nothing.' Her words swirl over scenes of mundane life – an unmade bed, scattered objects on a desk – before landing on a close-up of Andrew closing his eyes.
Paying attention to one thing can reveal more info over time. Four comic panels show a statue of a full-size Easter Island head throughout the seasons. In fall, the grass around it grows sparse. In winter, the statue is covered with snow. In spring, the grass comes back to life, while in summer the grass grows thickly enough to partially obscure the statue.
Take public transportation. Take a new form of public transit and pay attention to the people around you. Connect with a sense of community by noticing your fellow passengers on your shared journey. Andrew stands on a crowded bus, taking in the other passengers.
Jenny strides forward on a walk. As she steps, her environment changes – from a sunny day, to pouring rain, to a strong breeze. "Your simple walk around your neighborhood is complicated in a lot of ways. Some of them may induce wonder. Some of them may induce despair," she says. "But I think I would rather be attentive to all of those things than to just kind of move through the world."

Editor's note: This conversation has been slightly edited for clarity.

This episode of Life Kit was produced by Andee Tagle. This comic was edited by Beck Harlan.

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