Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness

Joyful by Ingrid Fetell Lee

Have you ever wondered why we stop to watch the orange glow that arrives before sunset or why we flock to see cherry blossoms bloom in spring? Is there a reason that people — regardless of gender, age, culture, or ethnicity — are mesmerized by baby animals and can’t help but smile when they see a burst of confetti or a cluster of colorful balloons?

We are often made to feel that the physical world has little or no impact on our inner joy. Increasingly, experts urge us to find balance and calm by looking inward — through mindfulness or meditation — and muting the outside world. But what if the natural vibrancy of our surroundings is actually our most renewable and easily accessible source of joy?

In Joyful, designer Ingrid Fetell Lee explores how the seemingly mundane spaces and objects we interact with every day have surprising and powerful effects on our mood. Drawing on insights from neuroscience and psychology, she explains why one setting makes us feel anxious or competitive while another fosters acceptance and delight — and, most importantly, she reveals how we can harness the power of our surroundings to live fuller, healthier, and truly joyful lives.

Author: Ingrid Fetell Lee | Publisher: Little, Brown Spark

Amazon | Goodreads | Barnes & Noble

Rating: 3.5/5

“The power of the aesthetics of joy is that they speak directly to our unconscious minds, bringing out the best in us without our even being aware of it.” 

I read Joyful as part of my subscription to the Next Big Idea Club, and it was really, really interesting. Ingrid Fetell Lee is a designer who’s spent years researching the aesthetics of joyful things (like confetti and balloons and the Rockettes). Then she goes into how you can bring the same aesthetics into your own surroundings (short of throwing confetti around your home).

She goes through the ten aesthetics chapter by chapter: energy, abundance, freedom, harmony, play, surprise, transcendence, magic, celebration, and renewal. She explains the psychology of why each one makes us grin like fools, gives examples, and tells stories.

This book made me want to buy plants, colorful paintings, mirrors, and more!

I dropped my rating to 3.5/5 because it did read a tad dry at certain points. I think the writing style is a little more formal than necessary, and sometimes she uses five words when two would do. I started to get a little impatient toward the end of the book. That being said, I learned a ton and would still recommend it!

The inside of the dust jacket is worth owning this book all on its own. Trust me.

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