The beginning of the year often comes with a lot of excitement and energy – hopes for a new, fresh start. But that often fades quickly, and we find that we’re staring in the face of several more months of winter, with no major holidays or breaks to look forward to. In these dreary months, it can be enticing to settle in and embrace the bleakness and just wait for spring to arrive. But what if we took this time to be intentional about seeking out joy? 

Ingrid Fetell Lee, author of “Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness” and recent speaker at our 2021 Changing the Odds conference, has identified ten “aesthetics of joy”—qualities that have a connection between the feeling of joy and the tangible world around us. Here are the ten qualities she highlights in her work: 

Here is a quick summary of her ten, according to her book Joyful:

Energy: vibrant color and light

Abundance: lushness, multiplicity and variety

Freedom: nature, wildness, and open space

Harmony: balance, symmetry and flow

Play: circles, spheres and bubbly forms

Surprise: contrast and whimsy

Transcendence: elevation and lightness

Magic: invisible forces and illusions

Celebration: synchrony, sparkle, and bursting shapes

Renewal: blossoming, expansion, and curves


We love Ingrid’s work in identifying what brings us joy – an often difficult to pinpoint emotion. With her extensive research to guide us, here is a non-exhaustive list of ways to find joy in these dreary months of winter. We’ve organized our list by activities (joyful things to do) and physical spaces (making our home, office, etc. more joyful).

Ideas to bring more joy to your spaces:

Paint a wall a bright color

Hang up a colorful piece of art

Add a lamp or two

Organize your books in rainbow order

Replace something grey/black/white with something colorful (chair, pen holder, coffee cup)

Paint or hang polka dots on a small section of wall

Hang up a collection of kids artwork, hand drawn doodles or postcards

Arrange your setup so you can see out of a window if possible

Hang up pictures of nature, especially places that are meaningful to you

Clear out clutter to make space feel more open

Get an indoor plant and keep it near your workspace

Tidy up your entryway

Put a small toy in your workspace

Hang a prism or tiny disco ball 

Ideas to bring more joy to your activities:

Wander through a specialty shop or farmers market

Get outside, the more open space the better

Identify one thing that bugs you and fix it: something you bump into every day, a room in need of a trashcan, storing cleaning supplies too far away

Play a board game, peekaboo or tag with a child

Pick a new hobby – painting, juggling, baking, needlepoint

Have a board game night with friends (in person or virtual)

Blow bubbles

Send someone a handwritten note

Sign up for something new, like an art or dance class

Try a new food, fruit or veggie or a new restaurant

Blast your favorite playlist

Play background music during mundane tasks

Dance (like no one is watching!)

Wear something colorful

What else brings you joy? Write it down so you don't forget to revisit it! 

For more ideas on joy, be sure to visit The Aesthetics of Joy site.

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