Developing The Art of Delight

Elaine Porcher
Elaine Porcher

Recently I started reading The Book of Delights by Ross Gay.  The book uncovers small everyday occurrences that the author saw as delightful. 

The book made me think of how everyday mundane occurrences in my life are indeed delightful and downright beautiful.   I must admit that I sometimes muse on how my life could be a bad sitcom as weird and wonderful obstacles constantly pop up, like recently when I stepped one foot off my elevator just as the power went out in my building. 

As the hallway and elevator went totally black, the moment felt anything but delightful to me. I lifted my other foot off the elevator quickly, imagining the elevator would fall down the shaft behind me, and then I just froze.  With arms full of mail and a brief moment of confusion as to what to do, I first reached for my phone, then decided to reach for my key, then tried again to reach for the phone. 

Frazzled, I finally made it into my apartment.  I immediately went to the window to see if the city was also out, but noticed that it was just my building. 

But... looking out over the Hudson River at the view of Manhattan was absolutely stunning in the evening sunset.  The burnt red, orange and gold reflection off the buildings were electric and the pink and purple sky with plumes of cream clouds that held gold linings were breath taking.  And for a few seconds I forgot that my food was slowly rotting in the fridge.  Being in the dark and seeing this absolutely amazing view gave me perspective.  While there was uncertainty and fear of this outage, there was a whole city still moving, unaware of my peril, being gorgeous and business as usual.  It was delightful.

So, this got me thinking about how I could capture these unusual moments of delight in my own life and in yours.   Here are a few tips that I came up with on how to develop a healthy practice of capturing delight.  So, dust off your butterfly net and get ready to be delighted.

1. Start a gratitude practice.

UC Berkeley did a gratitude study where half the participants wrote letters of gratitude and the other half didn’t.  Researchers looked at the participants’ brains in an fMRI machine to see the changes.  Overwhelmingly, the group that expressed gratitude showed changes in the prefrontal cortex (the part of our brain that rules decision making and goal setting), and these effects lasted months after the study.  Researchers were able to determine overall better mental health from this study.

2. Look for moments of beauty around you. 

When you are actively looking for something beautiful, you will find it. 

3. Synthesize delight. 

Miraculously, one of the factors that separate humans from other species, other than having thumbs, is that we can simulate happiness.  As per Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness, humans can simulate happiness then become actually happy just from the simulation.  This hopeful technique is used subconsciously by many of us when we are forced to make a choice.  We are able to not only accept the choice, but to then allow the choice to bring us real happiness. So, "fake it till you make it" doesn’t sound so crazy after all. 

4. Be curious. 

This never gets old.  Curiosity will always surprise you with new moments of learning and living a life of zest and, might I add, delight.

5. Fall in love. 

This doesn’t only apply to romantic relationships.  This applies to deep loving relationships that you have with anyone or anything.  Falling in love is a transcendent experience that allows you to see beauty in almost anything.  Being in love releases oxytocin and dopamine in our brains which are associated with happiness.  Ever notice when you’re in love, you start thinking that everything around you is beautiful? These feelings help you to notice all that is delightful in your orbit.

Delight is everywhere.  It is the Easter eggs in the fabric of our lives.  Being able to see these wonderful occurrences is an art that must be developed.  When you start to notice small delights in your life it will then become hard to un-see. 

Just think.  What has delighted you today?


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Elaine Porcher

By Elaine Porcher

Elaine Porcher is the Senior Director of Business Development for The Leadership Program where she is responsible for enriching school and community partnerships and designing programs that help transform school culture in New York City and nationwide. With over 20 years of experience designing curriculum and facilitating workshops for parents, educators and students, Elaine brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to schools and communities that include finding strategic solutions for districts nationwide, coaching teachers in student engagement and providing effective management tools that motivate and excite staff.