Surprising Things That Unite All Cultures Joyfully

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Joy!! (It definitely needs exclamation marks)

Little bubbles of happiness, floating and turning and reflecting all the surrounding colours as they spin their magic.

We have a little balcony upstairs, just off what I love to call the sunroom (because during Winter, at a certain time in the afternoon, there is this incredible golden sunshine that fills the room, coming through the balcony doors at an angle). The sunroom is in-between all our bedrooms, and in the mornings I’m the first one up with our completely gorgeous, now one-year-old pups, Jazz and Dixie. It’s so still and quiet, apart from their excitement at being awake. I take them outside for a wee and a poo and a morning play in the garden if it’s nice weather, then they have their brekky, then the three of us head back upstairs where I have my breakfast on the balcony as the two furry munchkins settle into their positions with their heads resting on the bottom of the railing, looking out over the world.


Then my husband’s crumple-faced smile as he wobbles out of the bedroom in waking-up mode (it takes him ages to properly readjust to a lucid waking state). A big hug.

Then our boys emerge from their bedrooms. They’re adults now, and it’s such a delight to have them still living with us and sharing their early adult experiences. They’re so funny, always filling the mornings with some sort of random humour and teasings as they prepare their coffees in the spare bedroom that has been transformed into a mix of my writing and creating space and a family breakfast room.


Those are some of my daily joyful moments.

What are yours?

What are the little things that are repeated every day that make you smile?
What are the things in your environment that spark happy bubbles?

Are they sounds, textures, fragrances?

Are they colourful, natural, creative?
Are they loud or quiet or a mix of both?
Do they evoke a sense of fun or peace or alignment or delight?

These are the things that leave their impression on your soul, if you let them. If you notice them and allow them to work their enchantment.

But what can you do if you’re just not feeling it?

Do you just sit it out until the blues pass and you feel ready to let the joy in again?


But there are actually real things that you can do to re-spark joyful feelings.

As long as you have a desire to feel more joyful, then even from your place of non-joy, you can begin to tweak your surroundings in a way that more readily lets joy in.

Amazing thought, isn’t it?

But hang on, what was that? Tweak your surroundings to create joy?
Isn’t joy an inside job?
Aren’t we supposed to choose to appreciate what we have and think better-feeling thoughts and trigger joyful feelings from the inside?

Sure, all of that contributes in a big way.

But sometimes it’s just too much to expect yourself to control your thoughts and bring about your own joyful feelings, right? You’re just not in the mood.

Enter . . . Joyful; a fascinating and happiness-sparking book by Ingrid Fetell-Lee.

I don’t even remember how I discovered this book. Was it because I saw Ingrid’s TED talk, or did I see the TED talk after reading the book?  In any case, I read it a couple of years ago and found it intriguing and inspiring; it’s a fabulous account of how we can bring joyful elements into our surroundings to spark increased overall happiness.  And who's going to say no to more happiness?  Isn't that the overriding reason that we choose to move to new countries and have new experiences, the thought that there may be further happiness to experience there?

So I really wanted to share with you the surprising power of ordinary things to create extraordinary happiness (the subtitle of Ingrid's book).

(I have no affiliations with Ingrid, I just love her work.)

Through her vast research, travels, inquiries and design focus, she has identified 10 aesthetics (visual elements) of joy that seem to have the same effect on people’s emotions whichever part of the world they’re in. It’s so interesting and fun to discover them in her book, and then notice and include them in your own surroundings.

So, whatever your current situation, wherever you are, whether you’ve moved houses or moved countries, whether you’re a seasoned expat regularly changing posts, or you’re well-established in your adopted country and don’t even feel like an immigrant, or like me, you’re in your birth country and happy with that, adding some of these little touches to your personal space, your home, whether temporary or long-term, rented or owned, will lift your feelings whenever you enter it and spark renewed feelings of joy.

Ingrid suggests that we consider including things like 

* vibrant colours
* circles
* light
* symmetry
* sparkle
* harmony
* contrast
* whimsy (isn't that a fun word, whimsy?  It means playfulness, surprise, fun).

That’s quite a list, isn’t it? A happy list – it feels happy.  And there are more.

The two aesthetics that I’ve played with the most are those of colour and circles.

Yes, circles.

It’s true – circles add a playfulness that soften the feeling of a space. It can be as simple as choosing a round mirror instead of a rectangular mirror. Things like round floormats, coasters or placemats, cushions with a pattern of circles, displaying colourful teacups (which adds colour and circles at once).

I’ve deliberately added circles to our sunroom and writing/office/breakfast room. And I have to say, I really like the feel. Below are a few photos; I think you can feel the effect of the colour and circles.
mini smoke flowers images

In the sunroom, I bought a rotating bookshelf. I love reading a great novel, and just seeing the books themselves makes me feel good. So now they’re displayed in this circular, rotating bookcase, which I decorated with fairy lights, just for fun. I love it!

And just last night I did something that I’ve had in my mind for a while . . . I rearranged the books by colour, grouping them together in similar spine colours. I’d seen the way people had done this and always loved the effect, so tadaaaa . . . now I have mine!



In the corner of our writing/brekky room (photos below) I have a comfy chair accompanied by a gorgeous Parisian-style table and chair (well, it feels Parisian to me). I actually bought this table and chair to be used in our French show for children that my team and I created some years ago and performed in schools and preschools, called the Oh là là Show. I now use the table in our brekky space. You’ll notice that it’s round.

With a bright yellow circular placemat in the middle of the table, and a round mat that I added last night, I just love the feel. (You may spot some more circles that  happen to be there - some of these were moved in from our spare room when our son moved back home - it's actually turned into a very circle-y corner!) The mat was originally in the sunroom, but when we welcomed our furry girls a year ago, we had to puppy-proof the house, so the mat was rolled up and stored away for a future date. Well, that date arrived, and full of hope, I decided that it may be safe to reintroduce the mat to our sunroom.


Bad idea.

Within no time Dixie and Jazz had ripped a hole in it. I think because it’s made of a natural woven material, it just has that natural smell and texture that proved irresistible to excitable furry friends.

Soooo, I wondered if it might work in the corner of our brekky room; with furniture on it, the girls might be a bit more relaxed about it. So far, so good! Last night they sniffed a little and then curled up and made themselves comfy.



Which is all to say, there are small things that can be done to your surroundings that really do spark more joyful feelings.

Colours, circles and pretty lights are just a few. You may be drawn to some of the other joyful ideas that Ingrid presents in her book.

I invite you to experiment with introducing more of these universally joyful style elements into your own surroundings.  Have fun with it!

Make it a focus during this coming week to notice the effect of colour and circles, just to start with.

I definitely think this is something we’ll explore further as we allow our personal chic to develop. Because wherever we are, we desire joy, right?

So why not spark your own joy by playing with design?

You could make your whole life more fun!

mini smoke flowers images

judith x

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