Ahhhhhhh, the infinite pursuit of happiness. We all find ourselves at one time or another in the midst of this infinite pursuit and yet, what does it really mean? What is happiness? Why pursue it?
Happiness is said to be something that is measured over time. It is a broad evaluation of how we feel about our how our lives are going. Since March 2020, lives have been uprooted and so many more have embarked on this infinite pursuit.
Happiness includes many different factors: How we feel about our work? Does it give us meaning and purpose? How we feel about our health, our relationships, our children?
Happiness can also sometimes be a little bit vague. You can go through periods where you’re indecisive. Am I happy? Why are some things good and some things not so good?
As human beings, we’re always sort of processing all of that on the whole in order to come up with this determination of whether or not we’re "happy."
Joy, on the other hand, is much simpler and more immediate.
Psychologists define joy as an intense momentary experience of positive emotion. It can be measured through direct physical expression.
So the feeling of smiling, laughter, and wanting to jump up and down. We get that feeling when something gives us a spark of joy; like a delicious ice cream cone on a hot summer day.
Often times, we have to work to find joy and/or bring joy into our lives. But fundamentally it is far easier to create more moments of joy, and design joy into our lives, than it is to go about finding happiness, especially in times like these.
Happiness is bigger and more complex and joy is about remembering what gives us joy and leaning into those things more and more often. Here in our little small town of Eureka Springs, Arkansas, joy is abundant and as if by magic, joy is designed into our everyday environment.
For many, many years, the discipline of psychology focused on what’s happening inside of us, as opposed to how are our surroundings influencing our emotions.
In this day and age, it doesn't take a psychologist to tell us that there is a profound connection between the physical world around us and the emotional world within us. We can often tell on our own.
For example, studies show that people working in more vibrant, colorful offices are more joyful and therefore make better, more productive, more creative employees. Hmmm, it makes sense, right?
Do you want to work here?
I know that for me, my eyes are drawn immediately to the green chairs and the floor-to-ceiling windows. The natural light and that view certainly have a positive impact as well. In fact, employees in joyful work environments are seen to be more focused and alert and more confident and friendly.
So, that said . . . just using the power of your sight to elicit joy . . . do you want to reside here?
In Eureka Springs, AR, our surroundings elicit an abundance of joy and from there, we make emotional choices. It's been this way since the very beginning when thousands flocked here because of the healing waters in and around our town. Visitors came to Basin Spring to bask in an intense momentary experience of positive emotion.
Eureka Springs has many attributes that make it a joyful place but let's take a moment to dive into three important aesthetics of our vibrant town that emphasize that our surroundings here intrinsically spark joy.
Color and brightness
We often think about color in terms of hue; we think about red versus blue versus yellow. But the color isn’t what matters; it’s how pure the color is. The brighter the color, the more pigment that’s in the color, the more associated it will be with joy.
Hues that are dark or dim generally associate with sadness and these are known to be universal associations.
Connect your nest to nature: One of the things that is really quite powerful to do is paint to paint your front door a bright color. Because this is the first thing that you see when you come home every day, and the last thing you see when you depart. Doing this also puts joy out into your neighborhood and it changes the way that your house engages with the world.
Eureka Springs has very creative nest options for guests and locals (seeking a stay-cation.) The color at The Cliff Cottage Inn on Armstrong Street is currently having the entire gingerbread color palate upgraded and refreshed. This action is bound to attract more business and certainly more joy.
Check out this joyful video featuring many unique front doors welcoming visitors to Eureka Springs.
Wearing more color does the same thing. When you wear a bright color, people respond in a certain way. They often will smile instinctively because joy is contagious. When people smile at you, you tend to smile back. And that creates a virtuous, joyful circle.
Nature's colorful extravaganza happens here every Autumn. This joyful season is spectacular and one of the busiest times to visit Eureka Springs.
Curves and round shapes
I read a report that explained when researchers put people into functional MRI machines and showed them pictures of angular objects, they found that a part of the brain called the amygdala, which is associated with unconscious fear and anxiety, lights up.
When they provided patients with round objects to look at, the amygdala stayed silent.
Conclusion: there is something in our brains that finds a sense of ease and playfulness around curves. Hmmmmmmmmm...
Why YES! Eureka Springs does have more than its fair share curves. Many curves. Curvy curves. Curves that curve around curves. We definitely have lots. This fine fact draws hundreds of thousands of bikers from all across the globe to visit The Ozarks and experience the famous pig trail for something known as - JOY RIDES! (go figure!?!)
When it comes to curvy/round shapes in Eureka Springs, there is an abundance to spark joy. These hotel rooms, designed as hobbit caves (pictured below) are crafted in nature with curvy entrances and windows. These are unique hotel rooms for visitors to enjoy when they are in town. Click here to learn about the options available and take a moment to visit their website and book your stay-cation or vacation at Eureka Springs Treehouses.
When we share little moments of joy with other people, it forms a signal that lets them know that we’re actually going to be there for them not just when things are good but when times are tough.
As we all know, in March 2020, things changed for our world.
Here in Eureka Springs, the same locals that usually came together for different events, parades, festivals, theatre and music, dinners, community connections and fundraisers also arranged locally-driven, locally planned and organized and locally sponsored support, aid and outreach for those in need during this Covid-19 outbreak and the many shelter-in-place weeks.
The residents of Eureka Springs are caring, and they are doers. They participate with intention to make joyful moments for each other, those around them and for our hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.
Coming together like this influences our well-being. Experiencing little moments of joy on a regular basis reduces stress. Doing so more and more often can have a profound positive impact on your outlook. Eurekans know this . . .
Did you know that when we undergo something very stressful, if we - soon after - experience a moment of joy, it can actually speed the physical and mental recovery? This aligns with my personal theory that Eureka Springs, infused with natural, joyful qualities is the perfect place to reside in isolation during Covid-19.
When we exhibit joy, we actually end up attracting others, which of course makes us feel more connected to the world around us.
In many cities and towns, people hold themselves back from joy to fit in with the society or culture. In Eureka Springs, if you're not living your joy, you're not fitting in with Eureka's culture.
Eureka's unique, diverse, small town approach to being you, and living your own joy (whatever that means to you) is what makes this place very special. Everyone is free to be who they are and to live their joy.
So in short, today's message is a simple one: happiness is something that we measure over time and joy is about feeling good in the moment.
Get out there and pursue small simple moments of small town joy more and more often. Find ways to get outside and experience the little surprises Eureka Springs has to offer - even in times like these.
Stay aware, follow the safety protocols (6ft, masks, wash hands) but don't forget to remember that there truly is another moment of joy awaiting you around every colorful curve in Eureka Springs ... and there is most likely a friendly local close by and ready to make that moment even better than expected.