Ask Ingrid: How do you find time for joy?

By Ingrid Fetell Lee

As I’ve been traveling around talking about JOYFUL these last six months, I find myself being asked so many great questions. Some are research-y, diving into the nitty gritty details of the science on joy. Others are practical, relating to how to apply the aesthetics of joy to daily life. Many are ones that I couldn’t have anticipated when I was writing the book. But they all stem from a curiosity to dig deeper into joy and find ways to cultivate it more often.

So I’m excited to share that we’re starting a new weekly feature called Ask Ingrid. Every Tuesday, I’ll be answering a question here on the blog and on Instagram stories. You can share questions with me via email, instagram DM, or in the comments below. I hope these will help to expand upon the book and give you even more ideas for how to create joy in your own life!

Today’s question, the first in our series, comes from J.P. in the UK. He writes:

How do you find time for joy?

In the daily shuffle, it can often seem like there is no time for joy! We wake up late, rush out the door to work barely getting a bite of breakfast, dash from meeting to meeting and come home too tired to do much more than watch some Netflix and flop exhausted into bed before waking up to do it all again. (And if you have kids, there are quite a few more steps in here as well!) In a life that feels like there’s no margin, how do you make space for joy?

Think small

The first thing to remember is that what distinguishes joy is that it’s really small. Joy lives in moments. So rather feeling like you have to shoehorn another wellness practice into your already crowded morning routine, take the pressure off and remember that you don’t need a lot of extra space (or even any extra space) in your day to experience more joy.

One way that I find more joy is by focusing on the in-between moments. The practice of joyspotting, or intentionally looking for joy in your surroundings, is one way to do this. It’s a great practice for your commute or in between errands. Instead of burying my nose in my phone on my way to a meeting or to the airport, I try to gaze out the window and see what I notice. (I’ve been known at times to pull over so I can get a picture!) If you try this, feel free to share your finds on instagram with the #joyspotting hashtag.

Turn downtime into joy-time

A little planning can help you turn odd slivers of time into joyful adventures. For example, if your working hours are flexible, why not time your commute to the sunset? If there’s a dog park in your neighborhood, can you adjust your route to swing by there so that you can see the pups play before you start your workday? I keep a list of “joy fieldtrip” destinations on my phone — stores, cafés, museums, galleries, murals, parks, etc. — along with their locations. I have also started marking these places with stars in my Google Maps app. When I have an errand or a meeting in a specific part of the city, I check my list to see if I can add a quick field trip. For example, on a trip uptown for a doctor’s appointment, I noticed I was near a bookshop with a stunning constellation ceiling. It was a ten-minute detour, but it made my whole day!

I’ve long had a policy of doing the same thing on business trips. I keep a list of joyful spots in different cities near and far. Then when I schedule a work trip, I check the list to see if I can build in a quick joy break.

Reimagine your routines

Another way to approach this is to look at things you already do and look for ways to make them joyful. Do you always meet a certain friend for dinner? Why not meet for a dance or drawing class instead? If you exercise in the mornings, can you skip the treadmill and find something that always lifts your spirits? I had a big breakthrough in this area when Albert and I rediscovered tennis. I struggle to get motivated to exercise, but give me a racquet and a ball to chase and I’m a happy camper!

Create a joy budget

If you’re having trouble making space for joy, it might be worth looking not just at your approach to time, but also to money. Sometimes we hold ourselves back from small expenditures that might bring us a lot of joy because we see these things as luxuries — wants, not needs. But if we value joy, then it’s worth devoting some portion of our income toward it. This isn’t to say that we should be excessive or wasteful in our spending. Rather, it means being intentional about including joy in our lives by creating a joy budget in our larger household spending plan. For one person, a joy budget might include decorations and a cake to celebrate family members’ birthdays. Another might include fresh flowers once a month. Another might account for skiing equipment and lessons. Identifying what brings you joy and planning for it can help you feel like this is money well spent, and can help you prioritize joy in daily life.

How do you make time and space for joy? Share your tips in the comments, and your questions! I’m looking forward to answering them in a future column!

February 26th, 2019


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    Discussion (4 Comments)

  1. Angela Martinez on February 26, 2019

    I love your book and it has definitely helped me focus more on moments of joy and to seek out ways to add joy to my life. I have two kids who are busy. And, when they are not in activities they are begging to play video games, text with their friends or watch tv. What are your suggestions to help children also learn to find joy from everyday life that they can take with them on their life’s journey?

    1. Ingrid Fetell Lee on April 15, 2019

      Thanks for this comment, Angela. This is a great question. I think it deserves a longer response, so I’m going to add it to our “Ask Ingrid” file so I can answer at a later date!

  2. Dawn herring on April 14, 2019

    I so enJOYed reading JOYful. I especially appreciated the “abundance” aspect of JOYful surrounds.
    I find JOY in being mindful with my wardrobe, relishing bites from my favorite food, listening to the mockingbird sing, and writing songs and singing with my tambourine.
    I simply love emphasizing JOY in daily living and experiencing it on a daily basis.
    Thanks for what you do to get JOY front & center!
    Be refreshed,
    Dawn Herring
    May JOY Align with Your Creative Heart

  3. Angela on August 30, 2020

    So glad I found you very recently (Ted Talk). I love how you reminded me that art needs more curves and colors. Also I love it when people are not afraid to be exuberant! Thanks.


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