Joy Treasure Hunt

Choosing Joy

After I broke my wrist on February 22, 2022, during our vacation in Moab, I found it difficult to feel anything close to joy. At times I struggled to do everything left-handed while enduring the pain. But once I got over the initial discomfort and overwhelm, I began hunting for what makes me feel light and content.

As a family, we listened to Ingrid Fetell Lee’s book on CD, Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness.  In it, she introduces ten aesthetics of joy. What makes you say “Yay” or “Wow”? Can you hold your own joy treasure hunt?

Joy Snow

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, or 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.


In her section about abundance, Lee describes how overflowing landfills, an obesity epidemic, and hoarding are examples of how abundance can become maladaptive. She also explains 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. How does abundance feel for you?


Whenever I walk my dog, I experience moments of joy that encapsulate energy, abundance, and the third aesthetic, freedom. While Ajax sniffs with renewed frenzy on streets we don’t often visit, I enjoy the sights and sounds. Steller’s jays fly overhead. A dozen robins forage for worms on an empty school playground. A trio of varied thrushes call to each other. Black-capped chickadees sing to attract a mate. And the sun pokes through the clouds, sending happy beams down to cheer me.

This is joy, I think to myself. Even after I broke my wrist, the very next morning I simply had to get out and enjoy the aftermath of a big snowstorm, sling and all. I grew up in Milwaukee, and I absolutely adore snow. Taking photos using my left hand — with two fingers, no less — proved extremely difficult. But I sparked with joy when I saw the expanse of blue sky over crisp white snow and red rock.

The freedom aesthetic includes a preference for natural fabrics and loose-fitting clothing. I am glad I had some with me, as it was the only thing I could maneuver one-handed AND fit over my bulky sling. If we hadn’t had fresh snow on the ground, I would have removed my shoes to walk around barefoot, a practice known as grounding or earthing.


Of Lee’s next four aesthetics (Harmony, Play, Surprise, and Transcendence), I identify most with transcendence. She includes in it the power of the treehouse. (I have always wanted one). Of skylights and rooms with space and high ceilings, both of which we have in our current home. Lofts, hills, mountains, waterfalls, and looking up to the clouds, skies, and stars. Views from elevated places. Check. She really speaks my language. When I look at the shadow cast by Mt. Rainier and see that summit looming, beckoning, I feel awe. Joy. And when she mentioned inflatables, I smiled, recalling the memorable birthday experience I had several years ago during a sunset hot-air balloon ride. What would you include in your own joy treasure hunt? Can you include more of those moments?


Of Lee’s last three aesthetics, Magic, Celebration, and Renewal, we experienced all three at the Admitted Students Preview on the University of Washington campus. On March 26, we experienced a magical day that combined school spirit, a celebration of my daughter’s hard work over the past four years, and gorgeous seasonal cherry blossoms in full splendor. Think of those moments that stand out to you as special. What made them so? Was it the place, the event, or the people you were with? Did you enjoy novelty, surprise, or whimsy? In the next few days, whenever you catch yourself smiling, jot down a few words about the moment. See what patterns you find. In going on your own joy treasure hunt, you will discover your unique “recipe” to create even more. And if my two-part “book review” intrigues you, check it out for yourself. Happy hunting.