How Can We Increase Joy?

Sometimes it feels like there is a decided lack of joy in the world today. Between an increasingly divided world and an ever-growing number of dangers, life can be sad.

And yet, there is joy to be had, even in the most dire of situations.

We need jubilation. It keeps us going when our emotional batteries are drained. It can remind us of the good things in life worth fighting for. Happiness makes learning easier, and it makes hard times more bearable.

Luckily, happiness is infectious. One person feeling joyfulness can share it with someone else, and it can bring a smile to both of their faces. A laugh shared is a laugh magnified. And sharing doesn’t in any way diminish the overall amount: joy is not zero-sum.

What is the best way to find delight, and then to share it with those around us? Can we make it ourselves? How can we increase joy?

Related questions: How can we maintain wonder? How can we appreciate life more? Is happiness the most important purpose of life? How can you take joy from joyless tasks?

5 thoughts on “How Can We Increase Joy?”

  1. First, to increase joy, I usually — although not always — need to feel it myself. So, if I’m not feeling joyful, I: nuzzle a puppy (for me, a dog of any age), treat myself to some dark chocolate, put some deep thought into the things I feel grateful for, ROCK ON to some music that energizes me, etc.

    Now, to bring joy to others, I often turn to the fact that I am a cheerleader. In fact, in high school I actually was a cheerleader — making human pyramids, throwing people in the air, attempting flips, and other stunts like that. These days, I’m more of a verbal cheerleader. Yes, I still try to get people sitting around a table to engage in a little “We got spirit. Yes we do. We got spirit. How ‘bout you?” People often look at me a little strangely when I do this; but I also think it introduces a little joy to otherwise serious, frustrating, or downer conversations.

    Other things I think bring joy to others:
    – giving people praise for the awesome things they do (very helpful when people, rather recognizing their accomplishments, are focusing on potential pitfalls and failures),
    – using fun words in regular conversations (people who know me know that I love using the word “snazzy”),
    – acting real silly when people say the word “duty” (get it, “doodie”),
    – giving “high fives” (often more helpful than extending a simple “congratulations”),
    – telling people why you are grateful for them and/or something they did (few statements are more heartfelt than a personal extension of gratitude),
    – sending someone a card in the mail (people love getting personalized snail mail),
    – out of the blue, buying and then delivering someone a cookie.

    (Caveat: As someone who sometimes struggles with Anxiety and Depression, I know there are people who at the current moment cannot feel joy. Trying to force joy upon them may, in fact, make them feel worse. A gentle nudge of joy might be okay. But if I get the sense that empathy might be the better elixir rather than cheerleading, that’s what I try to practice.)

    1. Great question and answer, Michael and Lee. I need to look up the definition of joy – how it differs from happiness and peace. …… doing it now in real time…1. the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires: DELIGHT.
      2. a state of happiness or felicity: BLISS
      3. a source or cause of delight.
      My first thought when I read the question was the Christmas carol, Joy to the World. Christmas for me is a joyful season and when fall comes to Minnesota, ( a season I’m not crazy about because summer is ending) , I can console myself that Thanksgiving and Christmas aren’t too far off.

      What other times have I found joy? Vacations and trips have been joyful times for me. My 52 years of wedded bliss (well mostly blissful), and lots of little joyful moments when I’ve done something to help someone. For me the ultimate joy is an awareness that God knows me by name and loves me, warts and all.

  2. Thank you for your insightful comment, Michael! Everything you said are great examples of giving. Giving of your time, energy and resources brings increased, and lasting, joy!

  3. For me, I think of that fresh feeling after physical exertion (a workout or hike, etc), listening to that perfect song, then I expand to sharing a delicious meal with friends or being silly with family. Appreciating the little things, like finding amusement in tripping over oneself or wonder in a sleepy looking bumblebee. Also trying to set realistic expectations, or maybe no expectations at all!?

    1. Katie, funny you mention expectations. A friend of mine likes to quote C. Bronte – something to the effect that our expectations always exceed the outcome. I told him I prefer the bumper sticker: EXPECT A MIRACLE.

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