This week I began listening to Ingrid Fetell Lee’s Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness. In it, she introduces ten aesthetics of joy. Yesterday I listened to her describe the first aesthetic, energy, which we get from vibrant color and light. Intrigued, I recalled my own post about joy back in December. And I decided I’d use Joyful as my guide on my hunt for joy.

A sign from the universe that has inspired my own hunt for joy.
A sign from the universe that has inspired my own hunt for joy.

Aesthetic 1: Color and Light

In the first section on color, Lee admits that as a former chromophobe, she once preferred whites or neutrals to bold colors. But when she moved into a living space with bright yellow walls, she kept them as they were. She became sold on the power of color to liven our moods.

I’ve intuitively added colorful stickers and inks to my journaling repertoire in recent years. Our gym pops with bold, energetic yellow, blue, and red. Could adding color to my wardrobe, my food, our garden bring more joy? I thought about my preference for outer layers that blend in with the environment rather than stick out.

Then I remembered the bright teal coat I received for Christmas. I smile every time I put it on. And the soft maroon Turtle Fur neck cover I wear on frosty mornings is as comforting as it is colorful. She may be onto something. The next time I shop for clothes, I promise to find one cheerful, bright item instead of another black, blue, dark green, or muted top. Just thinking about the possibilities gives me energy.

The first smiling daffodils of spring bring me joy. Is it from abundance or color -- or both?
The first smiling daffodils of spring bring me joy. Is it from abundance or color — or both?

Hunt for Joy 2: Abundance

In her section about abundance, which I listened to this morning, she describes how excited a “kid in the candy store” is as he “forages” for his next sugar high. I feel that way when I find a bush laden with ripe berries, a little free library or bookstore stocked with favorites, or a garden bursting with colorful blossoms and chirping birds.

Her discussion of over-abundance fascinated me. Overflowing landfills, an obesity epidemic, and hoarding are examples of how abundance can become maladaptive. I look forward to seeing if and how she addresses these in future chapters.

A chestnut-backed chickadee tending to its young.
A chestnut-backed chickadee tending to its young.

Finding Freedom

This morning while walking my dog, I experienced several moments of joy that encapsulated energy, abundance, and the third aesthetic, freedom. While Ajax sniffed with renewed frenzy on a street we don’t often visit, I enjoyed the sights and sounds. Steller’s jays flew overhead. A dozen robins foraged for worms on an empty school playground. A trio of varied thrushes called to each other. Black-capped chickadees sang to attract a mate. And the sun poked through the clouds, sending happy beams down to cheer me. This is joy, I thought to myself.

While I haven’t listened to her section on freedom yet, I look forward to hearing what she says about open space, wildness, and nature. Every time I visit the mountains or a forest, I experience this joy aesthetic. And when I return with next week’s blog, I hope to share even more about my adventures in the hunt for joy.

Hunt for joy: finding baby animals in nature always makes me smile.
A perpetual hunt for joy: finding baby animals in nature always makes me smile.

Published by Courtenay Schurman

Co-author of The Outdoor Athlete (2009) and Train to Climb Mt. Rainier or Any High Peak DVD (2002), author of Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills/conditioning chapter 4 (3 editions), and Peak Performance column for the Mountaineers Mag (2014-present). Member of PNWA, SCBWI, EPIC. Served on the steering committee for WOTS (2019-present). Completed UW Certificate program for Children's Literature and Memoir. Co-owner of Body Results, Inc. in Seattle. Climb leader with Seattle Mountaineers for over 15 years. Volunteer at Woodland Park Zoo since 2014.

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  1. JOY! A great counterpoint to some of the “harder” subjects covered in more recent posts: labeling, fear, cognitive distortions. It’s good to remember WHY we want to look at what is “holding us back” in our quest to find a way Onward, Upward, Forward. To “check some boxes” possibly, to measure ourselves against great challenges, to “proves” something to ourselves, to become “better”… but also, I would hope, to very simply find Joy in our lives. Your “teaser” on Color-and-Light / Abundance does show how “easy” it is to sometimes find Joy without “working very hard” for it. Reasons to rejoice are truly all around us if we can open our eyes… and whimsically use the rest of our senses too! I’d be tempted to “cheat” and find out what the remaining 7 aesthetics of joy are… but there is joy too in DISCOVERY and in being delightfully SURPRISED. So, I will try and wait for your return and the post(s) about all these other ways we can experience joy. I think one of my retirement projects might be “Joy-bagging”… a bit too late for me to do the same with peaks 🙂 I can’t end, of course, without wishing you a very joyful time away and “off”!

    1. Yes, I felt a lighthearted post was in order. There will be more “get unstuck” psychologically deep posts but I also want to encourage joy — in myself and my readers. They’ll be worth the wait, I promise. Keep on trekking! Onward, upward, and forward.

  2. I can’t wait for the next article. Interesting article. Joy. Colour. Nature. Freedom will be an interesting one. Have a great trip and adventure.