What is Joy?

What is Joy?

Q: What is joy? And why should we care about it?


In her book, Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness, Ingrid Fetell Lee writes that we are often taught to seek happiness instead of joy. While happiness is long-lasting, joy is momentary. However, research has begun to show that moments of joy are essential as well. Lee explains:

A body of research is emerging that demonstrates a clear link between our surroundings and our mental health. For example, studies show that people with sunny workplaces sleep better and laugh more than their peers in dimly lit … As I delved deeper into these findings, joy started to become less amorphous and abstract to me and more tangible and real.

Joy isn’t hard to find at all. In fact, it’s all around us.

Lee approached joy through her background as a designer. She shares the story of a Tirana, a town in Albania, in the 1990s that was riddled with crime and poverty. One day, the newly elected mayor began to paint old, gray buildings. The first building he painted a bright orange. People stopped to stare. Some complained, some remarked, and some even laughed. The mayor continued to paint different decrepit gray buildings bright vibrant colors. And, people stopped littering around them, they started paying their taxes, and reported feeling safer on the streets.

A similar thing happened in a nursing home in Japan when an architect hung large colorful balls from the ceiling of the visiting room. Family members who visited stayed longer. And, when a public school in Harlem painted their classrooms in bright colors, attendance rose, graffiti stopped and children reported feeling safer in the building.

Is it possible that our emotions can be so heavily influenced by color and abundance? Maybe! So, if you’re feeling a blue, search your surroundings for ways to spark some joy. Who knows? Maybe you’ll be able to awaken your senses and find inspiration and ultimately happiness.

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