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Designing for Joy – Ingrid Fetell Lee & Freedom Matters

Ingrid Fetell Lee & Freedom Matters

What is joy & how can our environment bring us more of it?

Ingrid Fetell Lee is a designer, and author whose groundbreaking work reveals the hidden influence of our surroundings on our emotions and wellbeing.

As a former design director at IDEO, author of Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness, and the founder of the website The Aesthetics of Joy, she empowers people to find more joy in life and work through design. Her immensely popular TED talk Where Joy Hides and How to Find It has been viewed more than 17 million times.

In this conversation we get to understand:

  • What is joy?
  • How our environment can influence joy
  • Why conflicting emotions can spark creativity
  • How joy has helped her to build resilience throughout her life

Host and Producer: Georgie Powell Sentient Digital

Music and audio production: Toccare Philip Amalong


Ingrid: We think of joy as this light, ephemeral thing. It’s not connected to stuff. You’re not supposed to care too much about stuff or material things. I asked these professors, how do things create joy? How is that possible? And they couldn’t answer this question. 

And this started me off on this journey that I’m now more than 10 years into, to understand that connection between the physical world around us and this wonderful feeling of joy. 

And I think as I got into that research, I discovered that joy is deeply connected to human thriving and that I think, really pulled me forward to say, oh, actually, this thing that I think of as icing on the cake, is actually much more important than I gave it credit for initially.

Georgie: Welcome to Freedom Matters, where we explore the intersection of technology, productivity, and digital well-being. I’m your host, Georgie Powell. And each episode, we’ll be talking to experts in productivity and digital wellness. We’ll be sharing their experiences on how to take back control of technology. We hope you leave feeling inspired, so let’s get to it. 

This week, we’re in conversation with Ingrid Fetell Lee. Ingrid is a designer and author whose groundbreaking work reveals the hidden influence of our surroundings on our emotions and well-being. 

As a former design director at IDEO, author of Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness, and the founder of the website The Aesthetics of Joy, she empowers people to find more joy in life and work through design. 

Her immensely popular TED talk “Where Joy Hides and How to Find It” has been viewed more than 17 million times. 

I really enjoyed this conversation with Ingrid, where we get to understand: what joy is, how our environments influence joy, why conflicting emotions can spark creativity, and how joy has helped her to build resilience throughout her life. 

Ingrid, welcome to the Freedom Matters podcast. It’s really fantastic to speak with you today.

Ingrid: Ah. Thank you so much for having me.

Georgie: So, as I mentioned before, we haven’t had a designer on yet. And I’m really interested just to start by asking you why you think design is so important and why it has been a lifelong passion of yours.

Ingrid: Oh, my goodness. I think design is important because it’s how we shape our world. And when I was a kid, I didn’t know what design was, I didn’t know design existed. I didn’t know any designers. My parents were doctors, but I wanted to be an inventor. And so I would always come up with these like crazy inventions. And I had no idea how you would go about making an invention a reality. 

I think one of my crazy inventions was I wanted to put something over the tires of the cars that would spray the sand in front of them. So, if you thought you were about to skid, you could just press a button and the sand would come out over the tires of your car, and then you wouldn’t skid. And I thought, “How does that even happen?” If you wanted to go about making one of those things, how would you even do that? 

It wasn’t until years later that I discovered design. And in particular product design or industrial design, which has to do with the design of all of the things that are smaller than a house, that are not fashion, or paper goods. Pretty much everything else is under the umbrella of industrial design. It’s like how everything physical that surrounds you gets made. 

And I think once you understand even some of the tools of design, you have a much greater sense of agency over your environment because you understand how all the things around you got to be there. 

And I think especially now as we deal with climate change, and a radically shifting planet and ecosystem, I think it’s helpful to understand where things come from, how they got here so that we can make better choices. And we can shift the way that we consume and the way that we produce.

Georgie: So, thinking about design as a way to understand better your environment really and to challenge you to think consciously about your environment. Amazing. 

And historically design, you talked about this quite a bit in the book, is tended towards monochrome and simplicity. And there’s also this cultural acceptance that what you wear shouldn’t matter or the things that you have shouldn’t matter. They’re seen as quite frivolous or shallow. Where have these Ivy social ideas come from and why are they so pervasive?

Ingrid: I think that’s a big question. So, let me take a step back. So, I think the idea that things shouldn’t matter and that we should be able to find happiness and well-being within, and that things are trivial, I think this has roots in a lot of the self-help movement. The roots of that I don’t know exactly, like how we came to this idea that we should be able to find happiness entirely within ourselves. 

But we know from doing research, for example, that a great deal of our happiness comes from other people, from being connected to other people. And I think though we haven’t done as much research on it, there’s a good reason to believe that being connected to our environment is also a powerful source of well-being. 

For example, living in nature, living surrounded by trees, and grass and plants have been shown across countless studies to have a positive effect on our well-being. People who live in greener environments live longer, they tend to have less anxiety, less stress, less depression. 

And so I think there’s this myth that we should be able to find all of our satisfaction for all of our needs within, and that to care about stuff is trivial or unimportant. But I think that the built environment is as much a part of our surroundings and the ecosystem within which each of us moves on a day-to-day basis, it’s our habitat, and it’s part of our well-being as well. 

As for the question of modernism and minimalism and the belief that we shouldn’t have too much decoration in our lives, that was, in many ways, a reaction to what came before a sense of at least access in the upper classes. You’d see it in Baroque and Rococo and these sorts of like highly embellished designs, which were associated with a lot of inequality in society. 

And I think the impulse behind modernism was to create a kind of egalitarian, stripping-back kind of architecture. It was very inspired by mass production and the ability to be able to create many identical items. When you look at that ethos, it was very ideological. It was not really based on what is good for us as human beings. 

And so I think we see a tension now that we’re starting to understand more of the environmental psychology, more of the research that explains how we respond to our environments. I think we’re seeing a tension between that and this value of stripping everything back and living in bare monochrome surroundings.

Georgie: It’s really interesting, isn’t it, because it’s a topic that started to come up quite a lot on the podcast. You know, this idea of mind-body duality, and the challenges of this embodiment, and the need for us to find ways to bring ourselves back into our body and to connect with our environment. It’s just something we’ve talked about quite a lot.

Ingrid: Right. I mean, I think this embodiment is something that we’re seeing across so many different fields. Money has become disembodied in a way. It moves around in computers and it’s just numbers that move around. We don’t have a physical relationship with our money, really, anymore. 

We don’t have a physical relationship with our offices, many of us. We have our home office, but the notion of the office as a workplace, a place we all go, is being reduced. But even before that, I think, I agree. 

If you look at the philosophy behind workspace design, it’s really to this day, heavily influenced by Taylorism and this idea that you’re trying to squeeze out the maximum amount of productivity out of each individual worker. And you do that by creating these distraction-free, very bare work environments that don’t take the workers’ focus away from what they’re doing, and you put the things that the worker needs close to them. 

But a lot of it is this notion that anything that distracts you from work is a problem, it reduces productivity. And it’s a mechanistic model of human productivity, right? It says hours in equals effort out or work product out. And the only way to increase that is either to increase the time or to increase the efficiency of the worker. 

But as we start to understand things like attention, the way that we focus and pay attention, the way that attention depletes after staring at a screen for a long period of time, or the way that nature, again restores attention capacity. We understand that it’s not linear. 

I love this study done on what they call lean work environments versus enriched work environments. So, when they put people in a lean work environment, which is like your typical cubicle farm, and they compare them with people working in enriched environments that have plants and art, and colors on the walls, people are 15% more productive in the enriched work environment. 

And when people have agency over that work environment and can move things around, they’re 32% more productive than in the lean work environment. And so this model of a distraction-free environment where we just focus and get maximum productivity out, is not accurate to what we’re learning about the human mind and the way that we become most productive.

Georgie: So, coming back now to your specialism over the past few years, joy. Why did you choose to focus on joy?

Ingrid: I wasn’t interested in joy at all. Actually, when I was in design school, I was in my first year and it was at the end of that first year I was at a review. And they had this panel of professors critiquing my work. And one of the professors said, your work gives me a feeling of joy. 

And I thought, well, that’s weird. For two reasons. One, I hadn’t set out to create things that were joyful. I went to design school because I wanted to study sustainable design. And so I was trying to create super sustainable, ergonomic designs. And so the fact that I had somehow created something that brought someone joy was a surprise to me. 

But the second thing was exactly the tension that you identified before, which is this idea that we think of joy as this light, ephemeral thing. It’s not connected to stuff. You’re not supposed to care too much about stuff or material things. I asked these professors, how do things create joy? How is that possible? And they couldn’t answer this question. 

And this started me off on this journey that I’m now more than 10 years into, to understand that connection between the physical world around us and this wonderful feeling of joy. 

And I think as I got into that research, I discovered that joy is deeply connected to human thriving and that I think, really pulled me forward to say, oh, actually, this thing that I think of as icing on the cake, is actually much more important than I gave it credit for initially.

Georgie: But how does joy exist alongside other positive emotions like bliss and serenity? When I first started the book, I was concerned that too much color, pattern, vibrancy, and texture can outplay a sense of calm. How can we find the right balance?

Ingrid: We use the words joy and happiness interchangeably a lot. We use a lot of these words interchangeably, but let’s pull apart joy and happiness first because I think those are the ones that often get confused. So, from a scientific perspective, they actually are different things. 

Happiness is a broad evaluation of how you feel about your life over time. It has to do with how you feel about your work, or how connected you feel to other people. Whether you feel like you have a sense of meaning and purpose in life; how you feel about your health. All of those things go into this complex equation of happiness. 

And sometimes it can be a little bit vague. It can be challenging to know, in a given moment, am I happy? Am I not? That’s why we’re always asking ourselves, I don’t know, am I happy? Is this what life is all about? Am I there? 

One part of your life is going great, another part not so much. And then do you just take the average, right? Or is it the lowest number is that wins? Right? It’s hard to know, I think happiness can be very abstract. 

Joy is much simpler and more immediate. So, when psychologists use the word joy, what they mean is an intense momentary experience of positive emotion. And that’s one that we can measure through expressions, like smiling and laughter and feeling like we want to jump up and down.

If happiness is how good we feel over time, joy is how good we feel right now in the moment. And I think that is a really helpful distinction. So, from a definitional perspective, happiness is a state of being and joy is an emotion. An emotion is something that rises and falls, it doesn’t last all that long. 

Now, there are many different positive emotions. And for example, I think the three easiest to compare and contrast might be ecstasy, joy, and contentment. And you can see that something like ecstasy is very intense and it lasts a very short period of time. You can’t be in ecstasy for more than a few minutes or maybe an hour at a time. It would just be too overwhelming. It takes over your whole body. 

Whereas contentment, you can have contentment for hours at a time before something might interrupt it. But it’s not as intense. It’s a sort of low-level, feeling of life is good. 

And so joy is somewhere in the middle. Joy is high energy. We feel like jumping for joy. It’s more high energy, but not as intense as something like ecstasy, and it doesn’t last as long as contentment. We have these moments, these flickers of joy. 

And really, when you think about holding all these positive emotions together, it’s not that you’re trying to stay in one state. There’s no happily ever after, right? There’s no permanent state. You’re trying to make more of these little peaks. And so you’re trying to cultivate a mixture of positive emotions that feels good to you. 

I focus on joy and making more moments of joy. But you’ll know what the right mix is for you.

Georgie: Yes, yeah. And is that personality type related? Are there some people who will naturally seek more joy and others would be happy to be more content? Have you found that at all?

Ingrid: I don’t know. It’s a great question. I don’t know whether there are personality types that prefer or gravitate toward different kinds of positive emotions, but you can see it with the broader palette of positive emotions. 

So, for example, amusement is a positive emotion that some people just really love to be amused with. And they always want to watch funny movies. 

And then there are other personality types that crave inspiration. And they don’t care so much about laughing hard all the time. But they want to go to art museums, and they want to feel that kind of inspiration. 

And I think that broadly speaking, all of those can be types of joy. I think you can experience joy and inspiration together, or you can experience joy and amusement together, and that will flavor your experience or your preferences as far as what you find joy in.

Georgie: Yeah, I liked, I think it was when you’re speaking to Adam Grant, you explained how often emotions can overlap. I felt like giant multiple circled Venn diagrams in front of my eyes in that sense that, yeah, you can have multiple emotions simultaneously.

Ingrid: Yes, absolutely. And you can have joy and surprise, and some people really love that feeling. There are people who love a surprise party and people who don’t, right? So, there are people who love that feeling of being joyfully surprised. And there are people who find that stressful. 

You can enjoy and awe and you can also have joy mingled with harder emotions. And that’s something that I think in the West, our societies are not very good at accommodating this idea that you can experience two emotions that feel like their intention at the same time. 

I read this quote recently, it was from the founder of Gestalt Psychology. He says fear is excitement without the breath. And I just love for example, that you can be very anxious and excited at the same time. 

And there’s great research to show that if you tell yourself you’re excited, you will feel less nervous and more excited. You can actually tell your brain how to interpret the physiological signals and anxiety that you’re getting. But you can also feel a sense of joy and anxiety at the same time, or joy and sadness, a bittersweetness. 

And there’s interesting research to show that when you feel two emotions that are intentional, and you get good at holding those emotions side by side, it actually makes you more creative. 

And the reason is that when we experience two dissonant emotions at the same time, it tells us that something strange is happening, right? It’s unusual. And the brain starts to look for all kinds of unique explanations because it says this isn’t a usual situation to have these two emotions colliding at the same time. There must not be a usual explanation. 

And that broadens our cognitive flexibility so that we then come up with more unique ideas. So, if you want to be more creative, allowing yourself to feel these emotions that are intentional can be a really powerful way to do that.

Georgie: The emotions and tension I felt last night because the British women’s football team won the European Championships. And it was — it’s a long time coming and it’s a massive moment for women’s sport. 

But there were the commentators there who were from former women’s football teams who never had the platform that the girls have had this year to take that trophy. And you could feel it. It was a huge celebration for so many things. For winning the tournament, but, as I say, for women’s football and for women’s sports more generally. 

But also, yeah, it was bittersweetness. I could feel the sadness that whilst they were all being incredibly supportive, they weren’t the ones that were able to take it home in the same way. 

And I think that was really, yeah, it just happens so often, doesn’t it, in so many key moments in life or even just looking at your child achieving something fantastic. And thinking that is also showing that that is the passing of time and that the moment won’t come again. 

An experience that led Ingrid to feel conflicting emotions is when she went to stay in some unique buildings designed to increase our lifespan and to knock us out of autopilot. I asked her to explain more.

Ingrid: Sure. Okay. So, the apartment building that you’re speaking about is called the Reversible Destiny Lofts. And it was designed by an artist and a poet called Arakawa & Gins. 

And Arakawa & Gins believed that the kind of architecture that we live in today, well, at least that many of us live in; kind of beige walls, ordinary bland flat floors, not much to look at on the walls, these kinds of environments are killing us, that they’re hastening the aging process. 

They believed that by stimulating the senses, we could help reverse or slow down the process of aging. Just like in the way that when you exercise, you tone your muscles, and that prevents the atrophy of those muscles. They had the same theory applied to your brain, that your brain atrophies when it doesn’t get enough sensation. 

And so they created these apartments, and they have a house which is actually not too far from where I live, and some other structures, a playground that were all designed to stimulate the senses to the maximum. 

So, in this apartment, there’s a room that’s shaped like a sphere, there’s a room that’s shaped like a cylinder on its side, that’s the bathroom. And one of my favorite features of that bathroom is that to brush your teeth, you have to hold on to the sink, because you slide away from the sink as you’re brushing your teeth. 

The floors aren’t flat, they slope and they slope in these — it’s like sand dunes. Imagine living in a sand dune, but the floor is solid, but it’s shaped like a sand dune, with little hills and there are bumps all over them to help you get some traction and poles to help you hold on as you navigate around the apartment.

The only place that has a flat floor in the whole space is where you sleep because of course, they weren’t that crazy. They knew that you needed sleep. 

And they were all sorts of funny things like the control panels, one would be just on the diagonal. So, you’d go to turn on the thermostat and it would be just tilted to the side. There are just all sorts of funny things like that. 

The furniture obviously had to be different, because there’s no flat floor. So, they would have hammocks and hanging chairs and things like that. It’s really fun to go stay for a night in one of these apartments. 

And I left and I don’t think it was any younger, but what I did notice was that my senses were so heightened when I left. The Reversible Destiny Lofts is just outside Tokyo and I came back to my business hotel the next day. I looked at this burgundy chair that was just an ordinary sort of velvet burgundy chair and it glowed. It was just like alive. 

And I thought, isn’t this interesting that maybe we could have environments like this, maybe we don’t live in them all the time? But we could have them tune up or fire up our senses periodically. 

And while this is also wild and far-fetched, I think one thing that’s important to recognize is that the animal research that’s being done now suggests they were onto something. And that in rats, what we’re seeing now is that spending time in enriched environments does forestall some of the cognitive decline associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s. 

And it’s a totally wild thing and it’s challenging to imagine everyday life there. Although there are people who live in those apartments. But recognizing that what we’ve designed probably isn’t optimal either. I think it’s a result of what they’ve created and the research is starting to show it. 

Georgie: So interesting. A lot of the things you talked about in the book appear so joyful, colorful things, nature, harmony, inconsistent patterns, all these things. 

One of the reasons that they appeal so much to us is because a lot of our world is so bland. And therefore there’s a contrast there, that kind of — that pulls us in more. If we were to be in a world that was more saturated with joy and joyful objects, would the impact of those objects be diminished?

Ingrid: This is — it’s so funny. This question, I pretty much only get asked this question by people living in the UK. I don’t know what it is about this question. I did a UK book tour, it came up at every stop, it’s like this question. So, I don’t know what it is culturally. It’s so interesting to me because pretty much almost the only time I get this question. 

But I will say contrast is an important part of us understanding what’s joyful. At the same time. If you look at nature, nature is unreservedly abundant and joyful, and it’s not like we need a break from it. 

And so I think that our carrying capacity for joy in our environment is just much higher than what we currently have. And it’s possible that for example, we might not need to go to such extremes on the pops of joy that we create if we had a higher baseline. 

So, like a children’s hospital looks bright and vibrant compared to the rest of the hospital. But maybe you could dial what’s in the children’s hospital back 20%, and you could dial the rest of the hospital up 40%. And there would be some baseline where it would all feel joyful, and we wouldn’t need so much contrast. 

So, we can’t know the answer for sure, because this is the world we built until we try. But I think that we’re so shaped by this very low baseline that that is the place that we imagine from. It’s really hard to step out of what we know.

Georgie: Yeah. Very interesting about the UK thing, isn’t it? Because especially because I consider myself someone who’s very open to embracing joy. And I actually build it into my life already quite a lot. But my first reaction to your book was, this book is going to make me want to buy stuff. 

And therefore I don’t know if I want to read it. And then I started to read it, and actually, that brings us to the environmental question, which I’ll ask you next because actually, you really don’t have to buy stuff to be joyful. 

But I wonder if it’s that or if are we able to really allow ourselves to be joyful, that it kind of, it does evoke this kind of feeling of perhaps that means we need to be a bit silly, and English people aren’t silly. You know, you wouldn’t want to be silly.

Ingrid: Every culture has its own barriers to finding joy. And that’s what’s so interesting is that I think emotion is universal. There’s plenty of research to show that the emotion of joy is universal and that the expressions of joy are universal across cultures. 

But the cultural biases and the cultural, let’s just call it baggage that we all have, for example, in American culture, we have a lot of issues with bright-sided thinking and toxic positivity and this feeling that you always need to look on the bright side. And that’s its own obstacle to joy because it’s really hard to feel genuine joy when people are forcing it on you. 

We also have our crazy work ethic and crazy work culture, which says that joy is a reward for hard work, or it’s a distraction from work. It’s a luxury, not a necessity. There are so many things that kind of repress joy or challenge joy in our culture, but they are going to be different for each culture.

Georgie: Okay. So, coming back to this question, then, so yeah, picking up the book and thinking, oh, gosh, is it going to make me need to — want to buy lots of beautiful colored things. It’s really not about that. 

I think that all the way through the book, you touch on organizing, thinking about curation, and thinking about the balance of how much you have. I think you touched on Marie Kondo’s work and how, actually, a lot of what she’s talking about is very aligned with what you’re talking about too. 

So, perhaps you could talk a little bit given the environmental situation which we are really all experiencing and living and breathing this summer. I think more people than ever are concerned about the impact that our purchases have on the environment. So, can you talk a bit about how to build a joyful environment in a sustainable way?

Ingrid: Yeah. I think at the root of my work on the aesthetics of joy is this idea that if we can be more thoughtful about what we’re purchasing and what we’re choosing to bring into our environments, then we will have a deeper emotional relationship with those things and we will keep them longer. So, I call this emotional sustainability. 

I think part of the double-edged sword of the idea that stuff doesn’t matter, is that it makes us treat the stuff in our lives as if it’s disposable and trivial and unimportant. When in fact, if we think about these things as artifacts that were stewarding, artifacts that we are caring for and repairing because we have an emotional relationship with them, then I think our whole attitude toward consumption changes. 

It’s not just about I want to buy this thing because it satisfies my need. But does this really bring me joy? Does this add to my life and my environment? Or does it actually take away from it? And so it’s not a minimalist orientation. It’s not just saying get rid of all your stuff. 

And I think the minimalist orientation actually can sometimes have a lot of environmental risks. Because it will say to get rid of a perfectly good thing that you don’t want because you don’t like it anymore, you don’t want to have it in your space, and then buy it again later when you need it again. So, I think there are downsides to this sort of minimalist approach as well. 

To me, actually getting invested, and emotionally invested in our environment means thinking about and feeling an attachment to the things that we have. Now what that means practically, it often means repainting instead of buying a new piece of furniture, buying a lot of vintage things that you repaint or recover, refurnish or patch or repair in some way. It often means rearranging the things that you have to see their joy and see their beauty. 

And so I often talk about color coding books or grouping objects by color so that you can create a joyful vignette out of things you already have. So, most of the time, it’s not about buying things. It’s about looking at what you already have, finding what attracted you to those things in the first place, and creating a long-term relationship with that stuff.

Georgie: Yeah, amazing. And when we’re picking pieces for a lifetime, or colors for a lifetime, it’s quite hard when we are surrounded by advertising and more and more advertising than ever on technology. So, how does fashion play a part?

Ingrid: I think that with goods that are not meant to last a lifetime, most clothes are not going to last a lifetime. It may be because our bodies change, it may be because our functional needs change, and it may be because the garments are just not made to last a whole lifetime. 

I think practically speaking, it’s a question of balancing the production of the piece, and the disposal of the piece, and thinking through those two ends of the life cycle. 

So, a lot of smaller manufacturers now are making clothes in more sustainable ways. I think this is welcome. And then I think, thinking through the lifecycle such that, for example, a company like Patagonia who says, send them back to us, we’ll rebuy them, and we’ll resell them. Or buying things that are not full of microplastics that are going to end up in the ocean. 

There’s a philosophy called Cradle to Cradle which says that we’re not necessarily aiming always for I’m going to buy this thing and keep it forever. Because even our lifespans are limited. There is no forever in human existence. 

But really, you’re thinking about how do the materials reenter either technical or biological cycles. And so you’re thinking about something that is designed for its future life cycle. The designer at the beginning thought about where this is going to go, not just into a donation heap, which ends up being dumped on a developing country.

Georgie: Yeah. Okay, amazing. And then coming back to joy and The Aesthetics of Joy, what do you think technology’s role is currently in the way that we experience joy?

Ingrid: I think there are two sides of this. So, one side of this is that, in some sense, technology holds us back from joy because of the kind of disembodiment that we talked about earlier. So, for example, when I’m sitting at my laptop all day, what are my fingers doing? They’re just sitting on keys, they’re just swiping around. 

These are like some of our most exquisite sensing instruments. And when you spend time out in nature, and all of the different things that you touch, and then you come in, and all they get to do is touch a keyboard all day. I think our senses are often numbed by technology, and we become more disembodied, and I think that is a danger. It’s a risk. It takes us away from our physical sensory experience of the world. 

So, I’m always nudging people toward a greater connection with the physical environment, even if that’s something like I put a sheepskin on my chair, to have like different textures in my office. Scents, what scents are present in your workspace? Usually, nothing. Usually synthetic materials and forced air; thinking through what the scent experience, the textural experience, the sounds. 

So, I think technology is currently limited in the palette of sensations it can offer. That said, I think there are a lot of ways that technology brings us joy, brings us the joy of connection, the joy of discovery during times, like the pandemic was a lifeline in many ways, and it was a source of joy. I think figuring out how to use technology in ways that bring joy is important. 

Technologist Pamela Pavliscak talks about co-using a lot. And I really love this idea. She talks about how teenagers co-use media a lot, which means they’ll collaboratively create a playlist or they’ll watch things together on their phones, or they’ll edit a caption together for a social media post, they’ll pass it back and forth. 

So, they’re often creating things together using media together. And I think that is preferable to a lot of the solitary use that adults tend to do. And it’s not to say that technology pulls us away from joy or brings us toward joy. It’s very much a question, it’s a tool. It’s very much a question of how we choose to use it.

Georgie: And then final question, in your search to understand the aesthetics of joy, what did you come to understand about yourself?

Ingrid: Oh my goodness, many things. One of the lessons of the past 12-13 years of work for me is how much of a factor joy is in my own resilience. I had a challenging childhood and a fair amount of trauma. And little moments of joy were often the sparks that got me through, that helped me see that there could be more joy, a more joyful future, on the other side of what I was going through. 

And I don’t think I consciously knew that at the time. But I look back and I see how much I allowed those things to carry me through those difficult times. And now there are all sorts of really interesting research about how moments of joy can help us in these hard and challenging times. 

They help reset our cardiovascular responses to stress. They’ve done studies in the wake of 9/11 that shows that people who allow themselves to feel joy, even in the wake of a traumatic event actually recover better than people who just try to push through and just try to dig in and come out the other side. 

And so I’ve always thought of myself as a resilient person. But I didn’t realize how much joy was a factor in that resilience until I did this work.

Georgie: That’s fascinating. That’s lovely. Thank you for sharing that. Ingrid, thank you so much for being a guest on the Freedom Matters podcast. It’s been a joy to speak with you today. So, thank you so much.

Ingrid: Oh, it’s so fun. Thank you so much for having me.

Georgie: Thank you for joining us on Freedom Matters. If you like what you hear, then subscribe on your favorite platform. And until next time, we wish you happy, healthy, and productive days.