Herry blossoms; rainbows; wide, sweeping landscapes… Some things instinctively make us feel good. But have you ever wondered why? Have you considered there could be a rationale behind why things bring us joy? While much of what brings us pleasure is internal – such as relationships with friends and family – we can also derive a great deal of pleasure from our surroundings, believes emotional design specialist Ingrid Fetell Lee. We find moments of joy around us all the time – a bowl of fruit on a table, a vase of freshly cut flowers. And it’s not just a matter of taste – some of this is universal and hardwired into our brains, says Lee, and as such it’Os something we can tap into whenever we want. As a design student, Lee’s professors told her that her designs made them feel joyful. So she decided to investigate, and went on to research emotional design (the creation of objects to elicit appropriate emotions). She discovered a raft of studies to back her theories that the objects and spaces we interact with have a powerful effect on our mood.
Finding Happiness İsn’t a Matter of Chance, But One of Design Create More Pleasure in Your Life by Making These Simple Changes to Your Environment Photo Gallery
After an eight-year journey researching developments in psychology and neuroscience and travelling the globe to understand the ‘aesthetics of joy’, Lee wrote Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness (Rider, £20), which reveals the tangible roots of joy and shows how we can all create more of it. Here she reveals how you can bring more joy and delight into your life by making easy changes to your environment. 62 Health&Fitness // coachmag.co.uk MIND & body 1 Bring the ou Getting out into nature has been shown to improve mood, decrease stress and restore our ability to concentrate. Research suggests we have a strong preference for ‘fractals’ (patterns across different scales of view) with a medium degree of complexity — the kind that happens to be most common in nature.
Looking at them stimulates alpha waves in the frontal cortex, a state known to correlate with wakeful relaxation, which may be another reason we find spending time outdoors so joyful. Buy some house plants to help lower stress and improve indoor air quality at home. 2. Find the light Every sight you find joyful, from a sunrise to a baby’s face, is down to light reflected from the environment into your eyes. Light is colour’s power supply. What’s more, exposure to light during the day helps break down the hormone melatonin, making you more alert and energetic. Research shows that people with sunlit workspaces sleep better, are more physically active and laugh more frequently than those in windowless ones. Raise your blinds and throw open windows in the morning. Place mirrors strategically around your home to bring more light, decorate your walls with light-reflecting paint, make liberal use of light-coloured drapes, throws and curtains and try replacing traditional bulbs with broad-spectrum ones, which give similar benefits. Additional words: Eve Boggenpoel.
ROUND THE CORNERS
Do you find it hard to relax at home? It may be time to ^change your furnishings. When neuroscientists placed people into MRI machines and showed them pictures of angular objects, they noticed that a part of the brain called the amygdala, associated in part with fear and anxiety, lit up. But this part of the brain stayed quiet when people looked at round versions of the same objects. They speculate that because sharp angles in nature are often associated with danger (such as jagged rocks or thorns) we evolved an unconscious sense of caution around these shapes, whereas curves set us at ease. Choosing curved furnishings, such as a round coffee table, curved shelving, a comfy armchair or an oval rug, can make your space feel more playful and relaxed. 4. Create a sense of order sharp We all know how good it feels doing a big clear out. And the mood boost you get from decluttering isn’t just about getting rid of things you no longer want or need. It also creates a sense of visual order, which puts your unconscious mind at ease. In studies, disorderly environments have been linked to feelings of powerlessness and depression, as well as behaviours such as cheating. Harmony offers visible evidence that someone cares enough about a place to invest energy in it. Disorder has the opposite effect. Creating tidy groupings or symmetrical arrangements of objects can add a joyful sense of harmony to a home. Wash and dry the dishes before you go to bed (or put them in the dishwasher), organise your wardrobe into colour groups and your shoes into types, and keep the entrance of your home free from clutter so you don’t walk through the door and feel your heart sink the minute you arrive home because of the disorder surrounding you. Health & Fitness 63 w ( JOYFUL Joyful, by Ingrid Fetell Lee, is published by Rider. Priced £20. 5. Add a pop of colour . Want to energise your life? Add a pop of colour to your living space. Although we’re rarely conscious of the connection, it’s nearly impossible to separate color and feeling.
Our language confuses the two with regularity – our moods brighten and darken; on a sad day, we might have a ‘black cloud’ over us or feel a bit blue. And when things are going well, we say life is golden. Research backs this up. Studies suggest that bright colours are universally associated with joy, and even a small pop of a vivid hue can energise a space. Studies also show that people working in more colourful environments are more friendly, alert and confident than those working in drab ones. It doesn’t actually matter what colour you choose, as long as it’s bright and saturated. Try painting one wall of a room in an accent colour, adding a bright throw or rug, or buying a colourful new piece of artwork and reap the benefits.
BRIGHTEN UP DULL ROUTINES
Find it hard sticking to those healthy new habits? Recent research has uncovered a reason: lack of joy. The repetition of habits reduces the friction it takes to engage in a behaviour, but it also dampens your emotion. When you build ioy into the habit from the beginning, you’re more likely to stick with your habits and reach your goals. Adding colour or variety to routines – for example investing in vibrant patterned workout gear or making ‘rainbow bowls’ out of a spectrum of colourful vegetables – can make healthy habits something to look forward to. 7Surprise yourself It sounds unlikely, but hiding a pop of colour in a closet, lining drawers with patterned paper or choosing clothes with brightly coloured linings lets you rediscover small moments of joy – again and again. When placed in an unlikely setting, a few patches of energetic color or abundant texture act like a concentrated tincture spreading rapidly through a glass of water.
These little surprises punctuate our routines and help thwart hedonic adaptation, the natural tendency for the pleasure we find in new things to wane overtime. Surprise also intensifies our other emotions. It acts like a magnifying glass for joy, imbuing tiny pleasures with heightened significance. 8. Buy yourself flowers Fresh flowers are one of those purchases we often feel guilty about buying for ourselves. But research shows fresh blooms are not a pointless indulgence – not only do they boost feelings of positivity and wellbeing; one study found they even enhanced memory among the elderly. Some flowers, such as allium and Queen Anne’s lace, have joyful bursting shapes, or they can be playful – think of a bouquet of pom-pom dahlias or yellow, ball-shaped billy buttons. Others can be transcendently light, iridescent and magical, and still others have surprises inside, such as a hidden colour that appears when they reach full bloom. Perhaps it’s time to treat yourself!
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