When was the last time you felt truly joyful? A book by TED Talk lecturer Ingrid Fetell Lee says we should feel it every day; even multiple times per day. But how? With career stress, parenting duties and chores to do; there’s never time left in the day.
Yet, according to Joyful: The surprising power of ordinary things, finding jump-for-it-joy is easy. The author, who spent eight years researching joy says, “Unlike happiness which measures how good we feel over time; joy is about how good you feel in the moment”. The Brooklyn-native started to ask people (perfect strangers) about what brings them joy. Whether she met them on the subway or in cafes, she would stop them and say, “Hi, nice to meet you. What brings you joy?”
After a few months, she noticed the same answers popped up again and again. “Cherry blossoms, bubbles, treehouses and ice-cream cones – especially the ones with sprinkles. These things seem to cut across lines of age, gender and ethnicity,” she said. “If you think about it, we all stop and turn our heads to the sky when the multicoloured arc of a rainbow streaks across it. And fireworks; we don’t even need to know what they’re for and we feel like we’re celebrating too.” These things aren’t just joyful for a few people; they’re joyful for everyone. But why?
Colours are intertwined with our thoughts and moods. Ingrid gives the examples of ‘feeling blue’ or ‘having a black cloud hang over you’. Yet, “when things are going well, we say life is golden,” she says. Brighter colours symbolise positive feelings and vibrant colours are used for festivals and celebrations. The colours of the rainbow and vivid sparks from fireworks make us happy. Why then, Ingrid asks, do so many of us paint our homes in neutral shades? Beige, white and grey are some of the most popular colours in homes and offices; is it any wonder why people feel so dreary?
It’s not a case of painting your entire living room pink or yellow, but the introduction of bright accessories can go a long way. A turquoise cushion or a yellow rug can add excitement, life and – you guessed it – joy into the room so easily.
One piece of confetti isn’t very exciting. But a room full of confetti? That’s fun. Ingrid says there’s joy to be found in ampleness. Just as a child feels joy when jumping into an overflowing ball pit, so too can adults feel joy from abundance.
This doesn’t mean you have to buy new clothes for “abundant” outfit choices. You can add abundance to your life in other ways. Wear a scarf covered in polka dots, Ingrid suggests, because lots of polka dots are better than one dot. The abundant pattern triggers our sense of joy (not to mention helps us feel trendy). Fashion icon Iris Apfel swears by abundant, clashing patterns, and look how happy she is.
Alternatively, indulge in an ice-cream cone dipped in hundreds of sprinkles; or simply pause to admire the many leaves on the nearest oak tree. When things are plentiful, we are filled with a giddy sense of joy. The more moments of joy we feel, the happier we are in the long term.
Ingrid’s book also suggests joy is best experienced when we feel free; and to feel free, we often need to be around nature. It’s what biologist E.O. Wilson calls ‘biophilia’ – the innate attraction humans have to other living things. It’s in our blood to spend time around growing plants and animals. It doesn’t mean we need to move to the countryside, though. Adopting a pet, having a desk plant, or simply having wallpaper with a flower print can bring nature into our otherwise concrete lives. Want proof? A study carried out in a prison found the inmates displayed less aggressive tendencies after watching nature videos, resulting in a 26% reduction in violent incidents.
These three examples of ways to find joy are just the tip of the iceberg. Ingrid’seye-opening book will help you see everyday things in a different light.
Joyful: The surprising power of ordinary things (Penguin) by Ingrid Fetell Lee is available to buy now.
Photo by Eye for Ebony on Unsplash
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