The “Aesthetics of Joy”—Creating an Environment That Boosts Happiness

January 28, 2019

While it’s true that a good measure of our happiness depends on internal factors like attitudes and beliefs, it’s NOT true that our environment has nothing to do with feelings of joy and happiness.

Designer Ingrid Fetell Lee’s 2018 book, Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness, (Little, Brown Spark) is all about how the “seemingly mundane spaces and objects we interact with every day have surprising and powerful effects on our mood.”

Lee calls these the “aesthetics of joy,” and they are: energy, abundance, freedom, harmony, play, surprise, transcendence, magic, celebration, renewal.

Joyful is one of the most intriguing books on happiness I’ve read. It was interesting to read the scientific reasoning behind why certain objects and spaces lift the spirits while others depress them. Lee’s thorough examination of the factors that contribute to joy was thought-provoking—from the questions (on page 10) that help you determine if your surroundings are joyful or not (including “How often do you laugh?”, “What emotions do you feel when you walk into your home at the end of the day? How about when you enter each room?”, “Who are the most joyful people in your life? How often do you see them?” and “What are your ‘happy places’? Are any within ten miles of your home? When was the last time you visited one?”) to her statement that, “At the heart of this book lies the idea that joy isn't just something we find. It’s also something we can make, for ourselves and for those around us.”

She continues, “You can use this book as a field guide to spotting and savoring more joy in your surroundings, to help you gain a better understanding of why certain things and places light you up inside. And you can also use it as a palette, to design and craft more joy into your world.”

You can also download a “Joyful Toolkit” at Lee's blog, These worksheets will take you through exercises to discover what brings you joy, as well as what activities, people, and places kill your joy. 

I’ve unconsciously been pursing the aesthetics of joy through what I call simple pleasures and everyday adventures. My penchant for pretty notebooks and painting my home office lavender are just two small examples. Now Joyful has given me a whole raft of things to think about and experiment with in regard to what places, people, and activities bring me joy. I definitely recommend it if you want to find simple, doable actions that will make you feel more joyful.

What would add joy and happiness to your life today? 

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  1. Kathy always reading your posts bring me is a happy place for me. The library is also a favorite - will be looking for "Joyful"...looks like a great book to read. Thanks for sharing as always friend. Hugs!

    1. Oh, Debbie, I'm so glad I can contribute to your happiness! The library is definitely one of my happy places. I feel simultaneously excited and calmed when I go there.

      Joyful is really interesting--I hope you like it.