We’ve all been told that happiness comes from deep within – not from the material things around us. However, there are many joys to be found in the material world – rose gardens, balloons, a brightly colored sweater. It turns out there’s a strong link between our physical surroundings and our emotions. This deeply researched book about the aesthetics of joy shows us, through these ten elements, how we can introduce delight into our lives and discover it all around us.
Energy (vibrant color and light): For hunter-gatherers, bright colors signaled ripe fruit. Color is life, vibrating with energy. Don't be afraid to fill the spaces around you with bold, bright colors. The same goes for light, which is "color's power supply."
Abundance (lushness, multiplicity, and variety) signals health and vitality and gives us a “Kid in a candy shop” joy. We seek abundance in sensations, like tastes and sounds, as if they are nutrients, and variety in color, shape, and texture – confetti, polka dots, and rainbows!
Freedom (nature, wildness, and open space): From the time we’re toddlers, we spend our lives asserting our freedom and independence. Open spaces, green, and the wild give us that feeling of freedom. Our innate attraction toward other living things, plant and animal, cultivates that freedom.
Harmony (balance, symmetry, and flow): Harmony shows care, giving unity and organization to a space or piece of art. It is the opposite of disorder. Symmetry is the outward symbol of inner harmony. We prefer symmetrical faces and patterns. The chapter explores creating harmonious flow with feng shui.
Play (circles, spheres, and bubbly forms): We all have a need for play. Often the shape of play takes the form of a circle or ball. Our minds see these shapes, with no sharp angles, as inviting play. Googly eyes, baby animals with rounded features, arcs and bubbles and curves all bring us a playful feeling.
Surprise (contrast and whimsy): “Joy has a way of showing up when we least expect it.” Rainbow socks peeking out from under a power suit has the power to shift our mood. Colorful knit sleeves on parking meters transform neighborhoods, contrasting soft textures with hard spaces, colors with gray.
Transcendence (elevation and lightness): Walking on air, being swept off our feet, feeling uplifted—joy and elevation go together. We feel freed from gravity, high off the ground. Treehouses and towers shift our perspective and inspire a state of awe. Transcendence can be achieved no matter where we are.
Magic (invisible forces and illusions): The adult world may not feel magical, but magical thinking can fuel our optimism. Whether it’s Icelanders who believe in elves, or people noticing fireflies, kites, or lightning storms, “We can court enchantment by bringing ourselves closer to the mysteries that surround us.”
Celebration (synchrony, sparkle, and bursting shapes): “Celebrations mark the pinnacles of joy in our lives.” All cultures (and even some animals) celebrate. We come together with song and dance. We created Carnival. Bursting shapes like fireworks show a release of energy, the joy of sparkle and flair.
Renewal (blossoming, expansion, and curves): The seasons create cycles of renewal in our lives. “We dream of a durable kind of happiness, a state of bliss that, once found, has the constancy of granite. And while there are many things we can do to create a reservoir of joy that helps us amplify the highs and buffer the lows of everyday life, sometimes we have to accept that joy moves through our lives in an unpredictable way.” “Cycles create a symmetry between past and future that reminds us joy will come back again.”