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Where joy hides and how to find it

In the pursuit of happiness, we often overlook joy. Find out how to find joy - that is hiding in plain sight.

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Photo by Ben White on Unsplash
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

[Day 17 of #30dayschallenge to post an article everyday for 30 days]

The inspiration for today’s article is a TED Circle conversation that I hosted a couple of months ago, which I’ve been meaning to write about.

A couple of days ago, a state of disaster was declared for the state where I’m based (Victoria, Australia) and we are now in COVID-19 Lockdown 2.0.

Undoubtedly, many people are feeling worried, ungrounded, and unsure about the future.

At the same time, it has never been more important to make sure that we look after ourselves — so that we can continue to homeschool our children, look after our loved ones, work from home, and get on with the business of living.

I’ve shared some ideas and perspectives that I had in a previous article.

Today, I wanted to share another simple but powerful idea that I hope may help some of us get through these challenging times.

Joy is all around us — but we tend to overlook joy

In her TED Talk on “Where joy hides and how to find it”, Ingrid Fetell Lee (a designer, author and joy researcher) pointed out something that in hindsight seemed blindingly obvious:

Joy is all around us, but in the pursuit of happiness, we overlook joy.

What exactly is joy?

It turns out that even scientist don’t always agree, and they sometime use the words “joy” and “happiness” and “positivity” more or less interchangeably.

But broadly speaking, when psychologists use the word joy, what they mean is anintense, momentary experience of positive emotion— one that makes us smile and laugh and feel like we want to jump up and down.

And this is actually a technical thing. That feeling of wanting to jump up and down is one of the ways that scientists measure joy.

It’s different than happiness, which measures how good we feel over time.

Joy is about feeling good in the moment, right now.

As a culture, we have become obsessed with the pursuit of happiness, but in the process, we have overlooked joy.

We all start out joyful, but as we get older, being colorful or exuberant opens us up to judgment. Adults who exhibit genuine joy are often dismissed as childish or too feminine or unserious or self-indulgent, and so we hold ourselves back from joy.

The good news is — since it joy is all around us and we can learn to get better at recognising joy.

Become a joy detective

Ingrid described how she would ask everyone she knew about the things that brought them joy — kinda like a detective.

Ingrid found that humans are more alike than we think, and she discovered that there are common things that are joyful for nearly everyone.

They are not big stuff, but really simple things that are readily around us.

Things such as cherry blossoms and bubbles, swimming pools and tree houses, hot air balloons and ice cream cones (especially the ones with sprinkles), rainbows, fireworks and confetti.

I really liked that idea and thought it’s really cool.

What if we can all become the Nancy Drew, or Sherlock Holmes, of joy?

And what if we become a detective of our own sources of joy?

Can we get better at it so that we can find it even in the most unlikely places?

Finding more joy in our lives

Even though the feeling of joy may seem mysterious and elusive, we can access it through tangible, physical attributes, or what designers call aesthetics, a word that comes from the same root as the Greek “aísthomai,” which means, “I feel,” “I sense,” “I perceive.”

In other words, we can find joy by paying attention to the “aesthetics” or sensations of joy.

Joyful moments are not hard to find because they are hiding in plain sight.

We just need to learn to pay more attention to all the little moments when we them throughout our day.

Some ideas to get you started

I have to tell you, we got pretty excited during our TED Circle when we started discussing the moments of joy that we may have missed.

For example, I always look forward to the matcha soy latte at the cafe near where my son worked — there’s nothing like holding a warm beverage and savouring it slowly at 7 AM on a cold winter morning.

I also feel joyful when I smell the aroma of cookies or other goodies when my daughter bakes.

When I do school pick-ups and drop-offs, I am always happy when an old favourite song unexpectedly comes on the radio — even better when it’s a song like “I Will Survive” which my daughter knows and we both sing along with exaggerated expressions and gestures, laughing our heads off.

On my birthday last week, I was delighted when a friend sends me a really cool text — which comes with balloons erupting on my iphone screen. My friend thought it was funny that I get delighted so easily.

I still feel joyful when I think about our TED Circle conversation on this topic.

Even right now, as I write this article, my attention was momentarily drawn to the sunlight streaming through my study window — that’s another thing that always bring me joy — and I feel joyful as I bask in the light.

I can probably write oodles more examples of how I find joy, but I think you’ve got the gist, and now have some ideas to get you started.

I would love to hear about your stories and successes.

Let’s find more joy. Together.

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