Ingrid Fetell Lee notes what we all take for granted
The Santa Clara
April 25, 2019
A blast of confetti. A towering redwood. What is it that makes these sights universally joyful?
We normally associate joy with experiences and people: a theme park with friends, a hike with family, a birthday dinner. But small changes to our physical environment can also profoundly affect our happiness.
The book “Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness” by designer Ingrid Fetell Lee chronicles what she calls the 10 “aesthetics” of joy. These themes of energy— abundance, freedom, harmony, play, surprise, transcendence, magic, celebration and renewal—connect the feeling of joy to our physical world.
Readers follow Lee on a journey around the world to find joy hiding in unexpected places. She shares stories of how Chinese philosophy of feng shui can help rooms feel more harmonious and how Japanese cherry blossom celebrations connect people to the natural cycles of the planet.
The topic seemed a bit wishywashy and touchy-feely at first. Sure, nature makes us happy and a party is fun, but how much can we really control how much joy we feel? In the hustle and bustle of college life, the emphasis lies on being productive and “changing the world.” Do we really have time to think about balloons and bright colors?
But Lee manages to strike a perfect balance between personal stories, scientific research, conversations with experts and aspirational woo. A broad range of designers, artists, architects and researchers are woven into Lee’s own journey to discover joy all around the world. Readers are left empowered to discover the ordinary sights, smells and sounds humans have evolved to appreciate.
So how can you spark joy in your everyday life? Here are a few suggestions from the book:
• Surround yourself with bright colors. As the weather warms up, pull out that colorful shirt from the back of the closet or take a trip to the nearby San Jose Rose Garden.
• Mix up your routine. Take a different route to class, visit a new restaurant or study in a different building. We often experience boredom or hunger when we are really experiencing “sensory hunger”—a desire for more varied and intense feelings from all five senses.
• Look up. Lee quoted a British cloud enthusiast, saying “Clouds are the perfect antidote to all the pressures of the digital age.” Taking time to daydream and gaze upwards can encourage long-term and creative thinking.
• Spend time in nature. The vastness of the ocean, intricacy of a flower, height of a redwood, freedom of a blue sky—these natural forms help us break free from the sensory monotony of the indoors and feel grateful, peaceful and unrestrained.
• Engage in play. In the scheduled haze of college life, almost every activity has an end goal, a due date or a purpose. Playing a board game, throwing a frisbee around or creating art transports us out of our schedule and into the present moment.
• Plan a celebration. Social gatherings bring together the best elements of friendship, music, food and play to create a peak experience of joy.
Where do you feel the most joy? What people bring you joy? What are the most joyful objects you own? What activities make you feel alive?
In the frenzy of the next few weeks, make time for the people, places and things that bring you to life.
And remember that joy is all around you, just waiting to be noticed.
Contact Gavin Cosgrave at email@example.com or call (408) 554-4852.