Joy is not just happiness. Joy is its own unique positive emotion, usually activated in response to good news or the arrival of a hoped-for event.
But not everyone responds to such occasions with joy. Researchers have investigated what makes some people more prone to feeling joy than others and have found that people flourish more in response to having a “disposition” of joy than relying on isolated experiences of intense but short-lived joyful emotion (Watkins et al 2018).
A disposition toward joy is a subtle enduring state, characterized by the following type of outlook: “In a typical day, things often happen that tell me my life is working out the way it should” or “Many things can bring me delight,” or “Even in the midst of bad situations, I can usually find something to rejoice about.” It is a perspective that life is being well-lived.
A clear relationship also exists between joy and gratitude, with findings suggesting that gratitude predicts increases in joy over time. Interestingly, dispositional joy also predicts enhanced gratitude.
In other words, it appears that the more grateful we are for what we have, the more able we are to experience joy in our lives. And, by being more joyful, we are then able to find more to be grateful for. It’s an upward spiral of increasing well-being, available to us all should we choose to jump aboard.
A study by the University of Exeter in 2017 found a relationship between the number of birds that people could see near their homes in the afternoon and decreasing levels of anxiety, stress and depression experienced. The study adds to the already compelling research documenting the mental health benefits of engagement with nature.
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