Foster Sympathetic Joy as an Element of Well-Being

Have you ever heard the term ‘sympathetic joy?’  Greater Good Magazine defines it as feeling uplifted, connected, and endeared when something wonderful is happening to another person. Another term often discussed, and we’ve used for sympathetic joy is appreciative joy. The opposite of this type of joy – sympathetic joy or appreciative joy towards others – is jealousy, resentment, and/or sense of competitiveness.

These emotions or reactions causes more dis-ease and harm to oneself than to others. Being happy for, or celebrating, another’s good fortune is a component of emotional intelligence (EI). EI is an essential dimension for one’s own well-being. Cultivating emotional intelligence, including appreciative joy, has been demonstrated to enhance an individual’s own happiness, contentment, and peaceful mind as much as, if not more than, the person they are joyful for. This is true for all positive emotions not just sympathetic or appreciative joy, but also kindness, compassion, respect, gratitude, and appreciation. 

For some, sympathetic joy comes spontaneously, but for most, it must be practiced and cultivated until delight for others, including strangers, comes naturally or becomes a habit. 

Start by Reflection and Analysis Reflect on your state of mind in situations when you feel angry, jealous, and/or resentful compared to when you feel grateful, joyful, and happy for others. Do you have a positive and peaceful mind or negative upset mind? Notice how you feel physically and note areas of tension or dis-ease.  Use such reflections and analysis to motivate the habit for joy, gratitude, and kindness towards others.

Second, Meditate on Loving-Kindness and Compassion to cultivate positive and pro-social states of mind. Many studies indicate the beneficial results of such meditations. Positive and pro-social states of mind have immediate effects on higher states of well-being, including one’s sense of belonging and close relationships with others (social well-being). Individuals cannot have total well-being if they are quick to anger, resentment, and/or jealousy.

The benefits from these habits are amazing! You don’t have to take anyone’s word for it. Try for yourself. It just takes practicing a few simple techniques for only a few minutes a day to transform from negative states of mind to more positive and open states — having more appreciative joy. 

We encourage you to try it for yourself and to offer sessions on emotional intelligence and appreciative joy as part of your wellness program as well as your leadership development initiatives.

Who finds joy in other peoples’ joy?

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