Did anything happen today that changed your mood for the better or even just took your mind off your concerns for a moment? Was it something big or small? Silly or important? Beautiful or surprising? Something else?
If not today, think of another time when you have been taken by surprise by a moment of wonder in the course of an ordinary day. What was that experience like? How did it make you feel?
In the Guest Essay “When the World Feels Dark, Seek Out Delight,” Catherine Price writes about the value of being alert to things that bring us joy and then announcing them to the world. The essay begins:
Here’s an idea for the new year: Let’s make 2024 the year of delight.
Does that sound ridiculous, given the state of the world right now? Hear me out.
The basic premise of a delight practice (which I learned about in the essay collection “The Book of Delights” by Ross Gay) is simple: You make a point to notice things in your everyday life that delight you. This could be anything — a pretty flower, a smile you share with a stranger, the sight of a person playing a trumpet while riding a unicycle down a major Philadelphia thoroughfare (true story). Nothing is too small or absurd. Then whenever you notice something that delights you, you lift your arm, raise your index finger in the air and say, out loud and with enthusiasm, “Delight!” (Yes, even if you’re alone.) Ideally, you share your delights with another person.
The concept of prioritizing delight may sound silly or almost irresponsible, given the heaviness of current events, feelings of burnout and the upcoming U.S. presidential election, in which it seems democracy itself could be at stake. But this is exactly why it is so important. Far from being a frivolous practice, making a point to notice and share things we find delightful can improve our moods, outlooks, relationships and even physical health.
How? Noticing delights requires us to pay attention, something that is required for our happiness and satisfaction but can be difficult in our increasingly distracted world. Essentially, this is a form of a gratitude practice — i.e., cultivating the habit of noticing and appreciating the things for which you’re thankful.
Students, read the entire essay and then tell us:
Ms. Price gives examples of things that delight: a flower, frost on a windshield, a smiling stranger and a trumpet-playing unicycle rider. What would you place on your list of delights?
Have you ever cultivated a gratitude practice such as keeping a journal about the good things and people in your life, writing letters of thanks, keeping a running list of what you’re grateful for and so on? How might finding and proclaiming delightful things fit into your ongoing efforts to experience gratitude?
Ms. Price writes, “It’s possible to disagree with people, to acknowledge life’s challenges, to debate, to sit with sadness, grief and fear while marveling at and seeking out simple joys.” Do you agree? Can you think of a time when you have experienced this? What do you think acknowledging delights in times of difficulty and division can do for us?
Do you think the essay makes a strong case for a “delight practice” as a way to improve our moods, health, outlook and connections with other people? Why do you think that? Are there other suggestions you would make?
Students 13 and older in the United States and Britain, and 16 and older elsewhere, are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public and may appear in print.