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    The Science of Joy: Why You Need It and How to Get It | Ingrid Fetell Lee

    Incorporating bright colors and simple actions like wearing vibrant clothing or engaging in joyful conversation can significantly impact our mood, well-being, and connections with others.

    enAugust 09, 2023

    About this Episode

    The hidden influence that your surroundings can have on your happiness. And how to tweak things in subtle but powerful ways.


    Today’s guest is Ingrid Fetell Lee, the author of Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness. She is the former design director at IDEO and the founder of the website The Aesthetics of Joy. She holds a Master’s in Industrial Design from Pratt Institute and a Bachelor’s in English and Creative Writing from Princeton University. 


    This is the second installment in a three part series we’re running called, Mundane Glory about learning not to overlook the little things in your daily life that can be powerful and evidence-based levers for increased happiness. 


    For tickets to TPH's live event in Boston on September 7:

    https://thewilbur.com/armory/artist/dan-harris/


    In this episode we talk about:

    • The physiological and psychological benefits of joy 
    • How to find joy in tangible objects and sensorial experiences
    • What Ingrid means by “faux joy”
    • How joy can intersect with many emotions including sadness and awe
    • How to change your environment, at work and at home, to infuse it with joy
    • A practice she calls, “Joy spotting” 
    • Her list of, “The 50 Ways to Find More Joy Everyday” 
    • The importance of noticing your killjoys 
    • The risks of being visibly joyful 
    • And how even on your worst day, joy can be accessible 


    themightyfix.com/happier


    Full Shownotes: https://www.tenpercent.com/tph/podcast-episode/ingrid-fetell-lee

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    🔑 Key Takeaways

    • Incorporating small moments of joy into our daily lives can have a significant impact on our well-being, productivity, creativity, and relationships, even on our worst days.
    • Finding and embracing small moments of joy can reset our stress responses, boost productivity and creativity, improve relationships, enhance our health, and ultimately contribute to overall happiness and wellbeing.
    • Embracing sensory experiences and being fully present in the moment can enhance our ability to feel joy, challenging cultural conditioning and emphasizing the importance of appreciating joy in our limited time.
    • Joy can be found by embracing impermanence, being present in the moment, and extracting joy from objects or experiences without being attached to them. Memories can enhance the experience of joy, which can be found in a variety of experiences, even those that may seem dark or somber.
    • Joy can be stimulated by conflicting emotions, and understanding its roots can help in designing environments and objects that provoke this positive emotion.
    • Incorporating aesthetic elements such as round shapes and bright colors can enhance joy and well-being, as they trigger positive emotions and sensations in our brains.
    • By incorporating sensory qualities and aesthetics of joy, we can create spaces that not only bring us joy but also positively influence our mood and overall well-being. It is important to address the disparity in access to joyful environments for vulnerable populations.
    • Joy is not something we need to earn or wait for; it is vital for our well-being. By practicing "Joy spotting," we can find and appreciate joyful elements in our surroundings, boosting our overall happiness.
    • By actively seeking out moments of joy and being fully present in our surroundings, we can unlock new perspectives, deepen our sense of mindfulness, and enhance our overall well-being.
    • Finding joy and spirituality involves recognizing the connection between our inner and outer worlds, and actively engaging with nature, art, and personal expression to cultivate a joyful state of being.
    • Incorporating bright colors and simple actions like wearing vibrant clothing or engaging in joyful conversation can significantly impact our mood, well-being, and connections with others.
    • Incorporating joyful conversations and reflecting on childhood influences, loved ones, and simple pleasures can help us rediscover joy and understand how to regain it, while also addressing societal pressures that hold us back from experiencing joy.
    • Identifying and addressing the external and internal factors that hinder joy can help us experience it more often, challenging societal judgments and embracing both seriousness and joyfulness.
    • Joy can be actively created and experienced, and it is important to remain open to joy even during difficult times, while still acknowledging genuine sources of sorrow.
    • Embracing moments of joy, even in difficult times, helps us appreciate life's fleeting pleasures and strengthens our ability to find happiness amidst sadness and loss.

    📝 Podcast Summary

    The Power of Joy: Enhancing Well-Being and Thriving

    Joy is a crucial element for human thriving. Scientific research shows that small moments of joy throughout the day can have a significant impact on our well-being. Joy can reset our body's stress response, increase productivity, enhance cognitive flexibility and creativity, and improve relationships. Ingrid Fetell Lee, the guest in this podcast, provides practical strategies for integrating joy into our daily lives. Joy is not just a fleeting emotion, but something tangible that can be found in ordinary things and sensorial experiences. It is different from happiness, as happiness is a broader evaluation of our overall life satisfaction. By incorporating joy into our environments, noticing and embracing joy, and understanding its intersection with other emotions, we can access joy even on our worst days.

    The Power of Joy: Impacting Wellbeing and Happiness

    Finding moments of joy can have numerous positive impacts on our wellbeing. These moments of joy, characterized by intense positive emotions like smiling, laughter, and the urge to jump up and down, can be measured through physical expressions. While happiness may be influenced by various factors and may elude us when things are not going well in our lives, joy is always accessible to us. Building up enough joy can create a feedback loop that leads to happiness. Small moments of joy can reset our stress responses, make us more productive, open our minds to creativity, and deepen our relationships. Additionally, joy can improve our health by resetting our cardiovascular responses to stress and strengthening our immune system. Furthermore, being in a state of joy makes us more attractive and magnetic to others. Therefore, seeking out and embracing these small moments of joy can have wide-ranging and lasting benefits for our overall happiness and wellbeing.

    The Role of Surroundings and Sensory Interactions in Finding Joy

    Joy can be found in both intangible and tangible experiences. Ingrid Fetells argues that our surroundings and sensory interactions play a significant role in influencing our mood and bringing us joy. She believes that physical objects and experiences, such as the smell of a loved one's hair or the touch of a snuggle, can provide deep and tangible joy. This idea challenges cultural conditioning, which often emphasizes non-attachment and intangible sources of happiness. However, Fetells suggests that embracing sensory experiences and being fully present in the moment can enhance our ability to feel joy. Ultimately, the conversation highlights the importance of finding and appreciating joy in the limited time we have.

    Embracing Impermanence and Finding Joy in the Present Moment

    Joy can be found in embracing impermanence and being present in the moment. Both Dan Harris and Ingrid Fetells emphasize the importance of recognizing that nothing lasts forever and that attachment to objects or experiences can lead to constant mourning. Instead, they suggest finding joy in the present moment and extracting joy from objects or experiences without being attached to them. While Dan Harris focuses on extracting joy without relying on memory, Ingrid Fetells believes that memories can enhance the experience of joy. They both agree that joy does not have to be superficial or constant, but rather a natural ebb and flow of emotions that can be found in a variety of experiences, even in those that may seem dark or somber.

    The intersection of joy and emotions, and its impact on creativity and design.

    Joy can intersect with various emotions, including sadness, awe, and a sense of the sublime. These conflicting emotions can actually stimulate creativity by encouraging the brain to seek novel solutions. Aesthetics, as defined by Ingrid Fetells, encompasses sensations and specific sensory qualities that evoke the feeling of joy. There are different levels of joy, including personal, cultural, and universal aesthetics. Certain things, such as bubbles, cherry blossoms, and rainbows, consistently bring joy to people across different backgrounds. Understanding these roots of joy can be used in design to create environments and objects that elicit this positive emotion.

    The Power of Aesthetic Elements in Evoking Joy

    Certain aesthetic elements, such as round shapes, bright colors, elevation or lightness, abundance, variety, and symmetrical shapes, evoke a sense of joy that is universally experienced across cultures. These elements trigger positive emotions and sensations, leading to relaxation, playfulness, and a feeling of ease. Evolutionarily, humans have developed a preference for these aesthetics because they were beneficial to our survival and thriving. For example, round shapes signal safety and set us at ease, while bright colors were associated with energy and abundance in our ancestral environments. Although some of these preferences may no longer be directly relevant to our modern lives, they still elicit positive responses in our brains. By understanding and incorporating these aesthetics into our surroundings, we can enhance our own joy and well-being.

    Bringing Joy Back: Enhancing the Built Environment through Mindful Design

    The built environment often lacks the aesthetics of joy, which can have a significant impact on our overall well-being. Modernist designers and architects have often focused on stripping away ornamentation and decoration, resulting in spaces that lack the joyful qualities found in nature. However, it is possible to reintroduce joy into our environments by being mindful of the sensory qualities and incorporating elements such as color, texture, and variety. These small additions not only bring joy but also influence our mood in unconscious ways. It is important to recognize that there are different aesthetics of joy, and by tapping into any of these aesthetics, we can create spaces that bring us joy. Additionally, it is crucial to address the disparity in access to joyful environments, as vulnerable populations often have the most drab environments.

    The Importance of Joy and How to Cultivate it in Everyday Life

    Joy is not a luxury or something we have to earn, but rather an essential aspect of thriving as humans. Ingrid Fetells highlights that our society often views joy as conditional, believing that it should only be experienced once certain criteria are met. However, joy should be seen as valuable in its own right, not just for the potential benefits it brings. By practicing "Joy spotting," which involves consciously looking for joyful elements in our environment, we can increase our joy quotient and overall happiness. This habit of shifting our perspective and paying attention to the sensory qualities that bring us joy can help us rediscover and maintain joy in our lives, even during challenging times.

    Cultivating Joy and Awakening to Life's Richness

    Developing a practice of joy spotting can have profound effects on various aspects of our lives. Ingrid Fetells shares her experience of how focusing on joy helped her understand overlooked habits and unlock new perspectives. Dan Harris emphasizes the importance of waking up in all aspects of life, as it can lead to a broader awakening in other areas as well. One tactic for joy spotting is to notice the invisible forces that surround us, such as wind, temperature, and magnetism, which can bring a sense of wonder and joy. Additionally, using all our senses, beyond just vision, can deepen our connection with our surroundings and enhance our overall mindfulness. These seemingly simple practices have the potential to generate self-awareness and awaken us to the richness of life.

    The Interplay of Inner and Outer Experiences in Finding Joy and Spirituality

    Finding joy and spirituality is not limited to inner or outer experiences alone. There is a constant dialogue between the two, where paying attention to the beauty of nature can deeply move and inspire individuals to make meaningful impacts in the world. Ingrid Fetells highlights the importance of jumping for joy as a way to drop the mask and return to a purely joyful state. Bringing nature indoors through plants and birdsong can enhance generosity, focus, and restoration. Moving art around and allowing children to decorate can bring fresh perspectives and awaken awareness. Ultimately, finding joy and spirituality is a dynamic process that involves embracing both internal and external experiences.

    Adding Color and Joy to Transform Our Lives

    Incorporating bright colors and finding simple ways to add joy to our lives can have a significant impact on our mood and interactions with others. Ingrid Fetells shared her experience of choosing vibrant wallpaper for her kitchen, which initially seemed overwhelming but ultimately brought her family joy. She also highlighted the power of wearing bright clothes on tough days, as it can energize us and attract positive attention from others. Additionally, sitting in the sunshine and engaging in joyful conversation starters can enhance our well-being and foster connections with people. These small actions may seem insignificant, but they have the potential to spark joy and create positive ripple effects in our lives.

    Cultivating Joy Through Conversation and Reflection

    Incorporating joyful topics of conversation can deepen bonds and connect us to our support networks. Ingrid Fetells recognized the importance of providing a break from discussing the news and created a list of joyful conversation starters to help people connect and find joy in their lives. These questions can also serve as helpful journal prompts for self-reflection. By reflecting on childhood influences and appreciating loved ones, we can rediscover joy and understand how to regain it. Furthermore, noticing and embracing simple pleasures in our environment, such as gardening, can bring ongoing joy. While joy spotting is a valuable practice, it should be complemented by other activities like journaling, therapy, and physical movement for a more holistic and fulfilling contemplative life. Additionally, understanding what holds us back from joy, such as societal pressures and the focus on delayed gratification, can lead to powerful insights and personal growth.

    Unraveling the Barriers to Joy

    Joy is often deferred or disconnected due to societal judgments, inner voices, and fear. Ingrid Fetells discusses how we learn to push joy aside, waiting for the perfect moment or fearing negative reactions. She emphasizes the need to unravel these patterns and identify the "killjoys" in our lives that hinder joy. These "killjoys" can be both external factors, such as critical people, and internal factors, such as perfectionism and fear of vulnerability. Furthermore, Fetells highlights the misconception that joy is trivial or childish, leading to judgments when expressing outward joy. She encourages embracing both seriousness and joyfulness, challenging the notion that they are mutually exclusive. Ultimately, recognizing and addressing the barriers to joy can help us experience it more often.

    Joy and compassion can coexist.

    Joy and compassion are not mutually exclusive. Ingrid Fetells emphasizes that we can surprise others by showing that joy and compassion can coexist and are not on the same spectrum. The example of the Dalai Lama, who exhibits both laughter and compassion, illustrates this point. Fetells explains that her investigation into joy has transformed her perspective on happiness. She now focuses on experiencing joy and helping others experience it, rather than simply seeking happiness. She believes that joy is something we can actively create, giving us agency in our emotional well-being. Moreover, she highlights the importance of remaining open to the possibility of joy, even in difficult times, without disregarding genuine sources of sorrow.

    Finding Joy Amidst Sadness and Loss

    Joy can coexist with sadness and loss. In the midst of a funeral, Ingrid and her cousin were able to find a moment of joy by appreciating something that brought laughter. This shows that even during difficult times, it is possible to experience moments of joy and connection. Often, we hold back from fully embracing joy because we fear the pain of losing it. However, understanding that joy can be felt even in the midst of loss can help us let go of that fear and allow ourselves to fully experience and appreciate moments of joy, no matter how fleeting they may be. So, instead of bracing for the possibility of losing joy, we should embrace it fully when it arises.

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