Press - 5 Women Helping Bring Us More Joy - Shondaland

From life coaches to authors to bakers, meet five women who have made it a life goal to fill the world with more happiness.

By Laura Studarus

The World Happiness Report, an annual study that measures national happiness based on quality-of-life factors, says that we have quantitative proof that happiness is resilient, and that big events (like, say, a pandemic) often have smaller than expected impact on our overall state of happiness. But if you need a boost in happiness, you can always move to Finland — which claimed the title as the happiest country in the world for the fourth year in a row.


Day-to-day joy, however, can be harder to grasp, particularly when we’re asked to rethink so many elements of our life. So, how do we create spaces for ourselves to thrive and enjoy life rather than just limping our way through it?


Helping to answer that are the five women we’ve gathered this month who have made it a life goal to bring more joy into the world. From redefining your career goals to taking time out in nature, to figuring out how you’re impacted by shopping, to sharing sweets with friends, and even redefining the very meaning of happiness, they’re out to help you find more joy.


Jenny Harrow-Keeler, Forest-Therapy Guide


A few years ago, Jenny Harrow-Keeler was in a terrible, near-fatal accident. She’s healthy and healed now. But looking back, she sees it as a pivotal moment when she had to actively decide what kind of life she wanted.


“Overall, I’m super-lucky to have come out the way that I did,” she says. “After a few weeks in the hospital, I flew back to California and kind of realized that my life completely changed.”


One of her realizations was that nature, which has always been a place of joy for her, was also incredibly healing. Interested in sharing it with others, she began studying forest bathing. A practice perfected in Japan, the term refers to slow, intentional walks in nature, where a guide will occasionally lead you through simple exercises meant to draw your attention toward nature — and away from the stresses of daily life. (It also doesn’t hurt that she often leads walks at Red Car winery, where post-walk sips are encouraged.) The results of taking time out from the daily grind include a reduction of stress hormones, lower blood pressure, and — as Harrow-Keeler points out — a sense of pure wonder.


Why forest bathing is a simple mood hack


“It’s accessible to everyone. It’s amazing to be able to go into a forest or into a more secluded space, but even for folks who are living in the cities or places where it’s a little bit more populated, there’s trees everywhere. There’s flowers everywhere. There’s nature everywhere. I think it’s one of the most accessible ways to manage stress, this practice of learning how to slow down and tune in to the environment around us and just feel inspiration, to feel joy, to feel excitement. It takes us out of the doldrums of our everyday existence of work and all the chaos and gives us this pause to step back and be like, ‘How can we tune in to joy and beauty and something a little bit bigger than just ourselves?’”


On pairing forest bathing and wine


“Before I went back to school for my graduate program, I worked in the wine industry for a little over five years. And so, when I finished my graduate program and I had written my thesis about forest bathing and I actually moved back to Sonoma County, it just came into my head when I was brainstorming places to offer these walks. So many people are visiting Sonoma County because of the wineries, and what a cool way to integrate it. Wine is all about the expression of the terroir the grapes are grown on. You get to taste the wine that’s an expression of the land. Wine has always been used in religious ceremonies and practices, but it’s been used with celebration. To me, it’s the Earth expressing itself through wine.”


How the practice has affected her own happiness


“The greatest expression of our gifts is when we get to share them with others. And I think that’s what has been such a beautiful part of this journey for me. I found nature to be a place of solace and healing, and an opportunity for me to feel connected in a way when I really needed it. During my healing journey after my accident, I felt really lonely. I remember waking up in that hospital and just being like, whoa — everything changed. I changed a lot of my values and ended up changing careers, and where I live, and who I spent my time with. I’m just really grateful that I get to share something that was so healing and beneficial with me.”


Check out the entire article here.