Angela Köckritz: On Discovering Lightness

The journalist Angela Köckritz was sitting on a beach in Senegal when there was a blackout. But her computer still had some power left. So she started writing a book on the topic of joy. In the process, she learned that there were more aspects to joy than she had actually thought – and that you can learn how to feel them. And no, she's not related to our editor-in-chief Michael Köckritz.
  • Text
    Michael Köckritz
  • Photos
    Stefanie Schweiger

There’s probably no better story about when and where an author started writing a book than that of the journalist Angela Köckritz: She had been on a trip to Senegal, sitting on the beach looking out at the sea during a blackout, when she felt that she’d like to write a little something. That little something then turned into a whole book. A book about different kinds of joy and about what happens in our brains when we feel it.

Ms. Köckritz, you’ve explored the topic of joy as if it were uncharted territory, although one might think that we should actually be quite familiar with the feeling of joy?

Of course, we all know joy. What fascinated me as I was writing my book was the realization that each type of joy has its own color, its own texture, its own taste. As I began to focus my attention on these different kinds of joy, I realized there are so many more joys than I had ever imagined.

It was a joyful surprise so to say.

I thought joy was a feeling I understood very well. When I looked more closely, however, I realized there’s so much more. It’s a bit like thinking about how many different types of cheese there are, probably hundreds of thousands. Another thing is that one type of joy can have very different nuances. If you enjoy dancing, for example, it can feel very different depending on your mood, on the song, on the time of day. Often joy is something that runs alongside us. We may have something on our mind, things to do, and in between we realize: Ah, I was enjoying myself just there! By working on the book, joy suddenly became my main occupation. [laughs] And just by paying attention to it, I found that my days were filled with much more joy than I had previously realized. Even on those rainy and cold days that I had previously dismissed as rather joyless, there was always something to be happy about.

Which aspects of joy have you grown particularly fond of?

I started writing the book during a visit to Senegal, where I had previously lived with my family for a few years. Joy is a universal feeling shared by people everywhere, yet the things that spark joy in different people differ from culture to culture. In Senegal, meeting others is an immensely joyful experience. Senegalese society is much more focused on community and solidarity than ours. Researchers have shown that Africans have much larger social networks than people in other parts of the world, and I’m not talking about social media here. I wouldn’t say that everything is better; there are pros and cons. But greeting people, for example, is a kind of art form in Senegal. People take their time with it, and its elegance is a cultural asset in itself. I personally enjoyed it so much that I am now trying to live it in Berlin as well.

"I thought joy was a feeling I understood very well. When I looked more closely, however, I realized there’s so much more. It’s a bit like thinking about how many different types of cheese there are, probably hundreds of thousands."
Angela Köckritz
If we imagine getting in a taxi or ordering a cup of coffee in Berlin, these activities aren’t necessarily encounters with other people that one would characterize as joyful.

True, but you can make a start, whether at the bakery or with the neighbor. It’s nicer for everyone if they were really noticed. A good friend of mine calls this a pyramid scheme of good will or good humor. When a cyclist insults you for blundering into his path, then maybe you get upset yourself and then you go on to insult the next person you come across. And so everyone gets angrier and angrier. You can spread joy in the same way. Besides, I also think that not enough people actually get the recognition they deserve.

Which people do you mean?

All those people who have to get up early in the morning and whose job is important to all of us. Bus drivers, garbage collectors, supermarket cashiers. These are the kinds of people who make our lives better every day. But they often get so little recognition, while on the other hand celebrities are showered with praise and adoration. It’s not like you have to go around constantly telling everyone how great they’ve done their job, it’s just enough to really notice people, talk with them or engage in some friendly banter.

ANGELA KÖCKRITZ, born in Munich in 1977, studied political science, sinology and art history in Berlin, Munich and Taiwan. She did an internship at Süddeutsche Zeitung and has worked for German weekly newspaper Die Zeit since 2007, serving as China correspondent from 2011 to 2014. Her first book, Wolkenläufer: Geschichten vom Leben in China (Cloud Runners: Stories of Life in China), was published in 2015. From 2017 to 2020 she reported from Dakar, Senegal. Angela Köckritz currently lives as a freelance journalist and author in Berlin. Her most recent book, Freude: Über die Entdeckung der Leichtigkeit (Joy: On Discovering Lightness) was published in February by Piper.
ANGELA KÖCKRITZ, born in Munich in 1977, studied political science, sinology and art history in Berlin, Munich and Taiwan. She did an internship at Süddeutsche Zeitung and has worked for German weekly newspaper Die Zeit since 2007, serving as China correspondent from 2011 to 2014. Her first book, Wolkenläufer: Geschichten vom Leben in China (Cloud Runners: Stories of Life in China), was published in 2015. From 2017 to 2020 she reported from Dakar, Senegal. Angela Köckritz currently lives as a freelance journalist and author in Berlin. Her most recent book, Freude: Über die Entdeckung der Leichtigkeit (Joy: On Discovering Lightness) was published in February by Piper.
Does this mean that joy is not a matter-of-course but something we can learn?

Yes. And this is in line with recent findings from the field of neuroscience. The key word here is neuroplasticity, which means that our brains are perceptibly modified by our activities – our rituals, tasks and our way of thinking. Let’s take a taxi driver as an example: The areas of his brain responsible for visual thinking will be better developed. This means that every activity that we regularly engage in will have an impact on our brains. Isn’t it good to know that we can teach ourselves how to think, live and feel?

So what happens in our brains when we feel joy?

The feeling of happiness is primarily caused by neurotransmitters, a cocktail of opioids produced in the brain that are released into the central nervous system. These substances include serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin, and their exact amounts and the way in which they are combined depends on the specific event that triggers the feeling of joy. Serotonin makes us feel tranquil and serene, dopamine provides drive, and oxytocin is released during moments of tenderness. Depending on the specific type of joy, different parts of the brain are stimulated. In the case of material rewards, this is mainly the so-called reward center, the nucleus accumbens. It was discovered by American researchers in the 1950s who taught rats to stimulate this area of their brain by pressing a certain button. Some of the rats pressed the button so much that they became exhausted and even forgot to eat. But the kick only lasts a short time. Other types of pleasure are much more constant, for example the flow that we experience when we are completely absorbed in an activity.

"Senegalese society is much more focused on community and solidarity than ours. Researchers have shown that Africans have much larger social networks than people in other parts of the world, and I’m not talking about social media here."
Angela Köckritz
Has the work on the book and this knowledge changed the way you think about of joy?

I’ve become more aware of certain things. While researching the subject, I stumbled upon a famous study conducted by American researchers in 1978 that I still find to be interesting today. The experiment looked at whether lottery winners were happier than other people. While it was true that the lottery winners were extremely happy when they won the money, the researchers found that this didn’t have any effect on their level of satisfaction in the long run.

What about the fact that they were now able to afford things they couldn’t before?

Certainly, their new-found wealth allowed them to buy various luxury products that gave them a sense of joy. At the same time, however, the lottery winnings made their familiar everyday pleasures seem dull in comparison. They experienced new forms of joy, but lost others in the process. I thought about that a lot. And what this shows is that you won’t be much happier just by becoming richer, more successful or more beautiful. Joy is simply there. The best thing to do is to just enjoy it.

Was there anything else that made a lasting impression on you?

Yes, something else I read about was an effect (…)

→ You can now read the entire interview with Angela Köckritz in the new rampstyle #25!

Michael Köckritz

Michael Köckritz

Editor in Chief
As a journalist, author, artist and media maker, Michael Köckritz succeeds time and again in creating both attention-grabbing and sustainably stimulating impulses in the context of contemporary and future topics as well as lifestyle and luxury worlds. As publisher and editor-in-chief, he has realised a whole series of book and lifestyle magazine formats that have regularly won numerous national and international awards over the years. The car culture magazine ramp, the men's lifestyle magazine rampstyle and the design magazine ramp.design are published internationally and are considered style-setting.
rampstyle #25 Keep It Simple and Smart

rampstyle #25 Keep It Simple and Smart

Wir erleben unsere Welt nicht nur als ziemlich kompliziert, sondern auch als äußerst komplex. In komplexen Systemen ist alles unvorhersehbar. Und wir sind mehr oder weniger fröhlich mittendrin.

Similar articles

Our Bestsellers

  • ramp #64 How About That!
    ramp #64 How About That!
    20,00 EUR
    Surprises open our eyes to new things, which now isn't really a big surprise. The unexpected simply stays in memory longer, sparks curiosity – and prompts action. Essential for adapting to a changing world. The future might just be warming up for progress. It's meant to move forward effectively.
  • rampstyle #31 Isn't That Something?
    rampstyle #31 Isn't That Something?
    20,00 EUR
    Focusing on the essentials, blocking out everything else... If you’re focused, you’ve already mastered one important key skill. In our multimodal world, focus is, unfortunately, a rather limited resource. In particularly focused moments, we forget all about time. But do we run the risk of developing tunnel vision? Does focus lose its power over time? Do we become habituated? Far from it. Unexpected surprises? Bring ‘em on!
  • ramp #63 Happy on the Road
    ramp #63 Happy on the Road
    20,00 EUR
    Happy on the road? You bet. For any respectable car culture magazine, after all, being happy on the road is a mandatory prerequisite. Over time, and with a little bit of luck (which is, after all, a close relative of happiness), these feelings cheerfully blossom into an emotional foundation that ...
  • rampstyle #30 Blue Skies
    rampstyle #30 Blue Skies
    20,00 EUR
    After “All Summer Long” here’s our follow-up issue with the title “Blue Skies”. Of course. Because readers who know a little something about the English singer and songwriter Chris Rea will have already noticed how we’ve come full circle here. The blue sky as a symbol of hopeful optimism about what’s to come.
  • ramp #62 Wild Things
    ramp #62 Wild Things
    20,00 EUR
    Just heading along, the journey itself a wonderfully blank page that presents itself to us with a cheerful unpredictability, as an inspired playing field for trial and error, for curiosity and spontaneity, unexpected surprises and flights of fancy. Wild and untamed. Just like life itself.
  • Director’s Cut: Luxury
    Director’s Cut: Luxury
    125,00 EUR
    Luxury is enticing and exciting, polarizing and provocative, not to mention that it is good for the economy. But the essence of luxury goes far beyond the material. Luxury appeals to our senses, our dreams and our desires. It immediately evokes images that are as precise as they are diverse. Luxury also triggers some pretty clear opinions – both favorable and unfavorable.
  • rampstyle #29 All Summer Long
    rampstyle #29 All Summer Long
    20,00 EUR
    Barcelona in summer. With Alvaro Soler - and a Porsche 911 SC. An approach to the phenomenon and the person Yves Saint Laurent. We spoke with Udo Kier in Palm Springs, and Luc Donckerwolke in his garage. And then there's the cover - and the associated story of House of Spoils.
  • Porsche 911 Everlasting Love Stories
    Porsche 911 Everlasting Love Stories
    99,00 EUR
    Sixty years of the Porsche 911 – sixty years that stand for very personal, highly emotional relationships of love involving this sports car. Stories marked by love, lust and passion. Captured in this high-quality illustrated book.
  • ramp #61 Love Is in the Air
    ramp #61 Love Is in the Air
    20,00 EUR
    Blue skies, the scent of fresh grass, the warmth of the moment – but above all: sunshine. The light of the sun’s rays, scientists say, is the decisive factor at the beginning of the warm season that triggers the merry mix of happiness hormones which energetically drive us headlong into the summer.
  • rampstyle #27 By the Way
    rampstyle #27 By the Way
    20,00 EUR
    Did you know that between thirty and fifty percent of all scientific discoveries are the result of coincidence? Velcro, Viagra, X-rays – sometimes people find things without even looking for them, but they are rewarded with an unexpected alternative.
  • rampstyle #28 Into the Great Wide Open
    rampstyle #28 Into the Great Wide Open
    20,00 EUR
    An exclusive fashion editorial with Tim Bendzko. Unseen pictures by photographer Anouk Masson Krantz. A conversation with star director Guy Ritchie and a somewhat different interview with musician Dan Auerbach. All this and much more awaits you in this issue of rampstyle.
  • Director’s Cut: The Lamborghini Book
    Director’s Cut: The Lamborghini Book
    100,00 EUR
    Author texts, expert interviews and aesthetically pleasing imagery do the brand justice in all aspects and make the book a must-have for all car fans and Lamborghini enthusiasts. Alongside exclusive design sketches, an overview of all series models with full technical specifications completes this extraordinary and ambitious book project.
  • The Lamborghini Book
    The Lamborghini Book
    100,00 EUR
    Author texts, expert interviews and aesthetically pleasing imagery do the brand justice in all aspects and make the book a must-have for all car fans and Lamborghini enthusiasts. An overview of all series models with full technical specifications completes this extraordinary and ambitious book project.
  • ramp #60 Too Cool to Handle.
    ramp #60 Too Cool to Handle.
    20,00 EUR
    A magazine about coolness? Among other things. But one thing at a time. First of all, it’s off to the movies. There’s this businessman from Boston who helps relieve a bank of a substantial amount of money. The insurance companies are on to him, but they can’t prove a thing. That, in a nutshell, is the plot of...
  • ramp #59 Tomorrow Is Yesterday
    ramp #59 Tomorrow Is Yesterday
    18,00 EUR
    “Tomorrow Is Yesterday” was the title of an episode of the television series Star Trek, and although it was the nineteenth episode overall, it was the first to flicker into German living rooms fifty years ago this May. The story revolved around timelines and time travel.
  • rampstyle #26 Good News
    rampstyle #26 Good News
    15,00 EUR
    Two thin ovals far up inside a circle, a curved arc below, sketched on sunny yellow. In a split second, our brain has combined the elements into a smiling face, instantly putting us in a good mood. Wonderful! A smiley like that just feels good.
  • Men’s manual - Best of rampstyle by Michael Köckritz
    Men’s manual - Best of rampstyle by Michael Köckritz
    29,00 EUR
    Existential questions are answered here: How do I build the perfect sandcastle? How do I start a band? Is there a perfect record player? (Spoiler Alert: yes, there is). Men´s manual is a supergroup of sorts: ramp and teNeues throw together their concentrated expertise in lifestyle.
  • ramp #64 How About That!
    ramp #64 How About That!
    20,00 EUR
    Surprises open our eyes to new things, which now isn't really a big surprise. The unexpected simply stays in memory longer, sparks curiosity – and prompts action. Essential for adapting to a changing world. The future might just be warming up for progress. It's meant to move forward effectively.
  • rampstyle #31 Isn't That Something?
    rampstyle #31 Isn't That Something?
    20,00 EUR
    Focusing on the essentials, blocking out everything else... If you’re focused, you’ve already mastered one important key skill. In our multimodal world, focus is, unfortunately, a rather limited resource. In particularly focused moments, we forget all about time. But do we run the risk of developing tunnel vision? Does focus lose its power over time? Do we become habituated? Far from it. Unexpected surprises? Bring ‘em on!
  • ramp #63 Happy on the Road
    ramp #63 Happy on the Road
    20,00 EUR
    Happy on the road? You bet. For any respectable car culture magazine, after all, being happy on the road is a mandatory prerequisite. Over time, and with a little bit of luck (which is, after all, a close relative of happiness), these feelings cheerfully blossom into an emotional foundation that ...
  • rampstyle #30 Blue Skies
    rampstyle #30 Blue Skies
    20,00 EUR
    After “All Summer Long” here’s our follow-up issue with the title “Blue Skies”. Of course. Because readers who know a little something about the English singer and songwriter Chris Rea will have already noticed how we’ve come full circle here. The blue sky as a symbol of hopeful optimism about what’s to come.
  • ramp #62 Wild Things
    ramp #62 Wild Things
    20,00 EUR
    Just heading along, the journey itself a wonderfully blank page that presents itself to us with a cheerful unpredictability, as an inspired playing field for trial and error, for curiosity and spontaneity, unexpected surprises and flights of fancy. Wild and untamed. Just like life itself.
  • Director’s Cut: Luxury
    Director’s Cut: Luxury
    125,00 EUR
    Luxury is enticing and exciting, polarizing and provocative, not to mention that it is good for the economy. But the essence of luxury goes far beyond the material. Luxury appeals to our senses, our dreams and our desires. It immediately evokes images that are as precise as they are diverse. Luxury also triggers some pretty clear opinions – both favorable and unfavorable.
  • rampstyle #29 All Summer Long
    rampstyle #29 All Summer Long
    20,00 EUR
    Barcelona in summer. With Alvaro Soler - and a Porsche 911 SC. An approach to the phenomenon and the person Yves Saint Laurent. We spoke with Udo Kier in Palm Springs, and Luc Donckerwolke in his garage. And then there's the cover - and the associated story of House of Spoils.
  • Porsche 911 Everlasting Love Stories
    Porsche 911 Everlasting Love Stories
    99,00 EUR
    Sixty years of the Porsche 911 – sixty years that stand for very personal, highly emotional relationships of love involving this sports car. Stories marked by love, lust and passion. Captured in this high-quality illustrated book.
  • ramp #61 Love Is in the Air
    ramp #61 Love Is in the Air
    20,00 EUR
    Blue skies, the scent of fresh grass, the warmth of the moment – but above all: sunshine. The light of the sun’s rays, scientists say, is the decisive factor at the beginning of the warm season that triggers the merry mix of happiness hormones which energetically drive us headlong into the summer.
  • rampstyle #27 By the Way
    rampstyle #27 By the Way
    20,00 EUR
    Did you know that between thirty and fifty percent of all scientific discoveries are the result of coincidence? Velcro, Viagra, X-rays – sometimes people find things without even looking for them, but they are rewarded with an unexpected alternative.
  • rampstyle #28 Into the Great Wide Open
    rampstyle #28 Into the Great Wide Open
    20,00 EUR
    An exclusive fashion editorial with Tim Bendzko. Unseen pictures by photographer Anouk Masson Krantz. A conversation with star director Guy Ritchie and a somewhat different interview with musician Dan Auerbach. All this and much more awaits you in this issue of rampstyle.
  • Director’s Cut: The Lamborghini Book
    Director’s Cut: The Lamborghini Book
    100,00 EUR
    Author texts, expert interviews and aesthetically pleasing imagery do the brand justice in all aspects and make the book a must-have for all car fans and Lamborghini enthusiasts. Alongside exclusive design sketches, an overview of all series models with full technical specifications completes this extraordinary and ambitious book project.
  • The Lamborghini Book
    The Lamborghini Book
    100,00 EUR
    Author texts, expert interviews and aesthetically pleasing imagery do the brand justice in all aspects and make the book a must-have for all car fans and Lamborghini enthusiasts. An overview of all series models with full technical specifications completes this extraordinary and ambitious book project.
  • ramp #60 Too Cool to Handle.
    ramp #60 Too Cool to Handle.
    20,00 EUR
    A magazine about coolness? Among other things. But one thing at a time. First of all, it’s off to the movies. There’s this businessman from Boston who helps relieve a bank of a substantial amount of money. The insurance companies are on to him, but they can’t prove a thing. That, in a nutshell, is the plot of...
  • ramp #59 Tomorrow Is Yesterday
    ramp #59 Tomorrow Is Yesterday
    18,00 EUR
    “Tomorrow Is Yesterday” was the title of an episode of the television series Star Trek, and although it was the nineteenth episode overall, it was the first to flicker into German living rooms fifty years ago this May. The story revolved around timelines and time travel.
  • rampstyle #26 Good News
    rampstyle #26 Good News
    15,00 EUR
    Two thin ovals far up inside a circle, a curved arc below, sketched on sunny yellow. In a split second, our brain has combined the elements into a smiling face, instantly putting us in a good mood. Wonderful! A smiley like that just feels good.
  • Men’s manual - Best of rampstyle by Michael Köckritz
    Men’s manual - Best of rampstyle by Michael Köckritz
    29,00 EUR
    Existential questions are answered here: How do I build the perfect sandcastle? How do I start a band? Is there a perfect record player? (Spoiler Alert: yes, there is). Men´s manual is a supergroup of sorts: ramp and teNeues throw together their concentrated expertise in lifestyle.