Friday, March 27, 2020

Joy Project: Abundance

For the second joy aesthetic in her book Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness, designer Ingrid Fetell Lee has chosen abundance. Admittedly, abundance is quite often a wonderful thing, but the concept seems a bit fraught in this time of Covid-19. For some, abundance is a closet full of toilet paper, all the shows they can stream, and a raging bull stock market. For others, abundance is an overflow of kindness, selflessness, and generosity. I imagine most of us fall somewhere in the middle, with an extra helping of worry thrown in.

So it was really interesting to read a designer's take on it. Lee writes, "The kind of abundance that really matters is not material accumulation but sensorial richness." She cites some interesting research about how animals and humans raised in "enriched environments" perform better on cognitive tests. Babies naturally seek out sensory experiences in order to support neural development. Adults of all ages are emotionally more satisfied and tend to adapt better physically with the right level of stimulation around them. (This is a key point, because overabundance--of food, alcohol, or technology, for example--tends to have the opposite effect.)

And how does a person go about enriching her or his environment with abundance? By focusing on "a diverse array of sensations", lest we develop what Lee calls "sense hunger."

As I write this, I'm noticing the diverse sensations around me: Music playing, candles burning, a fountain trickling, and a lava lamp blobbing away. I'm sitting on an inflatable exercise ball in lieu of a chair, which adds bouncing into the mix. (This is what happen when two people must work from home with only one office chair. But I'm okay with it!) A dish of seashells, smooth stones, and bits of wood sits near my desk, offering a variety of textures for my eyes, and, if I choose, my fingers.

Considering all that, I'm giving this little corner of my life an A+ for abundance! But it's still going to take practice to think of abundance in these sensory terms, instead of the material acquisition we are conditioned to value from birth.

If you have an example of abundance from your environment, please share in a comment. And speaking of abundance, next month will be full of posts from me, thanks to the A to Z Challenge!

I hope you're safe and well! See you April 1st. No fooling!

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