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What Is JOY?

Updated: Nov 17, 2023

I woke up with that question stuck in my head this morning. What is joy?


First, let me state why I’m asking. I was talking with a client last week who stated more than once that her experience with coaching has given her the ability to find more joy in her life.

Whoa, that’s awesome. She’s finding more joy in her daily life, while that may not have been the goal initially, it is certainly a by-product of working with a coach to figure out what might be getting in the way of a real sense of purpose and happiness.


So, to answer my question, or to get a better language around that feeling, I consulted the best source I know of in terms of identifying and understanding emotions: “Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience”, by Brené Brown.


Chapter 11 is titled: “Places We Go When Life Is Good”, could you even ask for a better title than that? The emotions that are represented there are Joy, Happiness, Calm, Contentment, Gratitude, Foreboding Joy, Relief and Tranquility. All but foreboding joy seems to fit, however, I realize after reading the chapter the importance of it. But that’s off topic here.


Brené thinks and shares that joy is “the good mood of the soul”. And she states “Based on our research, joy is defined as an intense feeling of deep spiritual connection, pleasure, and appreciation”.


The better part of that description is based on researcher Matthew Kuan Johnson’s belief that while we experience joy, we don’t lose ourselves, we become more truly ourselves. Let me repeat that: In joy, we don’t lose ourselves, we become more truly ourselves. OF COURSE, isn’t that what we all want, to become more truly ourselves?


And Mr. Johnson goes on…. we see colors more vividly, our physical movements seem freer and easier, and we smile involuntarily. Sometimes we even weep from the overwhelm of joy. Tears of joy, right?


Here’s another juicy bit though. There is a correlation between gratitude and joy – there is an intriguing upward spiral meaning practicing gratitude predicts future experiences of in-the-moment joy. And joy predicts future experiences of in-the-moment gratitude. And situational joy predicts greater future well-being. What a powerful thought…..there’s an upward spiral to joy and gratitude….we can access that to prevent or stop a downward spiral. Powerful.


Here's some really awesome news for you…..joy is accessible ANY TIME YOU WANT TO EXPERIENCE IT.


Seriously. Here’s an example from my morning walk. It’s the end of October on the East Coast of the US as I write this. The leaves on the trees are turning amazing colors of yellow, red, gold, maroon, and orange. And as I walk, many are letting go and falling to the ground. It’s a beautiful, magnificent display of nature doing what nature does. And in that moment, as the leaves fell toward the ground, I felt joy. Pure joy. My only thought was just how spectacular the scene in front of me truly was. And for that, I am truly grateful. Ah, I’m feeling the spiral effect of a connection to nature, the pleasure of it all and the deep appreciation for it.


Give Joy a try, I promise you're going to love it.

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