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The Science
of Joy

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The latest neuroscience now confirms what life experience and spiritual traditions have been telling us for thousands of years:

Joy is an inside job.

This is the best news ever.

It means that we don’t have to simply hope that we’ll feel better, someday, maybe. We can take the reins and create more joy for ourselves.

Jolene smiling
HHDL and a child reading off of a board

Does Joy = Happiness?

Think of joy as a more meaningful type of happiness. ’Hedonistic happiness’ is fleeting, and only includes emotions we think of as positive. ’Eudaimonic happiness’ includes meaning, growth, and acceptance. Even of emotions we may call negative.

(Don’t know how to pronounce ‘eudaimonic?’ That’s where saying ‘joy’ comes in handy.)

We’ve all been there:

We’re feeling low and want to reach for something to help us feel even just a little bit better.

A common default: scroll on our phone or grab a favorite snack--anything to take the edge off. But science now shows us things that work WAY better.

What Exactly Should We Do?

Neuroscience and psychology now have the answers. Well, a good number of the answers anyway, and they’re uncovering more exciting discoveries every day.

(They will look strikingly familiar to what ancient wisdom has been pointing to since… ancient times.)

Here are four easy things to start with, scientifically proven to help you feel more joy.
1

kindness

To do List:

  • Do a small thing to help someone else.

Bonus – Do 5 kind things in one day, and feel stronger effects all week!

Why?

Science shows that when we do something kind for another person or for the world--even when it’s tiny and takes only a few seconds-- the joy effect for us is BIG.

2

Gratitude

to do:

  • List 8 things you’re grateful for, or
  • Write 3 gratitude notes.

Bonus – Do this once a week for max impact.

Why?

Believe it or not, studies have shown these exact dosages of gratitude to be optimal for helping us feel more joyful. 
You’re welcome.

3

Reframing

to do:

  • List 3 potential ‘bright sides’ to a problem you’re facing, or
  • Ask yourself, 5 years from now, will the thing that is bothering you still matter?

Bonus – Think of one of your heroes. How might they see your situation?

Why?

Looking for ‘silver linings’ actually does help us feel better, studies show. And when we notice one silver lining, we’re more likely to notice others!

4

Connection

to do:

  • Send a friend a quick text message that will make them smile, or
  • Tell a family member or friend about something small or large that you’re struggling with.

Bonus – Join or re-engage with an already established group, online or in-person, and interact with at least one person.

Why?

The science is unequivocal: the single most significant predictor of mental and physical health is the amount and quality of human connections we have. We were all born to connect!

Why Bother to Create More JOY?

225 scientific studies show that people with more eudaimonic happiness, i.e., joy:

  • Are more productive at work and more creative
  • Make more money and have more sought-after jobs
  • Are more effective leaders and negotiators
  • Are more likely to marry and have fulfilling marriages, and less likely to divorce
  • Have more friends and social support
  • Have stronger immune systems, are physically healthier, and even live longer
  • Are more helpful and philanthropic
  • Show more resilience to stress and trauma

Get everything you need to know about joy, all on one page.

MORE ABOUt THE SCIENCE

Get started practicing joy with our tips

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