The Rockwood Files: Getting loose with a goose

By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

For months now, I’ve been eating breakfast with a goose.

He’s not loud or messy and doesn’t even beg for bites of my toast. He’s a low-maintenance goose, and he lives on a magnet I put on the metal breadbox in my kitchen.

A few years ago, I wouldn’t have even considered bringing a silly goose into my newly remodeled kitchen. I wanted it to look “high-end.” If we were going to spend money on remodeling, I reasoned, the end result better look like something straight out of a magazine layout. For a while, it did.

But time is chilling me out day by day. Circumstances sand down my rigid rules about how things should be. Life shows me how important it is to surround myself with little jolts of joy, regardless of whether they fit the overall design.

That’s what came to mind when I spotted that little magnet that happened to be outlined in the same color as my mint green breadbox. It was silly, yes. In fact, it even says so right there by the bird – “Silly Goose.” But it makes me smile, and I enjoy him each morning when I make toast. He reminds me that even when life gets hard, sometimes it’s okay to be a silly goose. Not only is it okay, it’s downright therapeutic.

Apparently, I’m not the only one choosing fun over fancy. The recent trend in “dopamine decorating” involves using items, colors, textures, or even smells that make you feel good. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in the brain, also known as the “feel-good” hormone. It makes us happy, alert and focused.

What’s great about dopamine decorating is that it’s hard to do it wrong. The only guideline is to choose things that jumpstart that jolt of joy. It might be a favorite color or something nostalgic. It might be a bit of whimsy (like a silly goose guarding the bread box). Or it might be a collection of photos where you and your favorite people are genuinely having fun (not just nicely posed). If you’re confused about what to look for, don’t worry. You’ll know it when you feel it.

On a larger scale, a nonprofit group called Bloomberg Philanthropies is taking this feel-good decorating concept to the street. Four years ago, the group began the “Asphalt Art Initiative” to use artwork and design to spruce up public spaces and improve street safety at the same time. And it works! According to an article published in The Washington Post, researchers studied the past two years of crash history at 17 sites in America where asphalt art and ground murals were created. The sites with art-filled, colorful crosswalks had a more than 50 percent decrease in crashes compared to the time before their makeovers by local artists.

Maybe this is proof that people slow down for a jolt of joy. We look around. We notice. We marvel at what a delightful departure it is in a sea of otherwise bleak blacktop. We need moments to remember what creative, inspired humans like us can do when we stop taking ourselves too seriously.

Here’s a tip if you need help figuring out how to get started. Pay attention to the things that already draw your attention. Jot them down or take a picture. Look for things in the same color as your favorite shirt. Notice what feels incredible to touch. And listen when you read or hear something that makes you laugh out loud. Your life needs more of that. Figure out how to incorporate it into what you see each day. Let joy abound in the spaces of your most lived-in places.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must go because I have an important appointment – to have toast with a very silly goose.

Gwen Rockwood is a syndicated freelance columnist. Email her at gwenrockwood5@gmail.com. Her book is available on Amazon. 

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