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Laughter is a typical expression of joy
A mother's joy in her child.
Joy as a liberating attitude towards life

Joy is the state of mind or the primary emotion that arises in response to or remembering a pleasant situation. Depending on the intensity, it expresses itself as a smile , laugh , cry of joy or in action .

In a broader sense, the trigger of a joy, a happy mood or a happy existence can also be referred to as joy. The term happiness is sometimes used in the sense of joy.

Joy is neither good nor bad in itself. It only has an evaluative component when it is in a negative or positive relationship to applicable morality (examples: schadenfreude or victory joy).



In Buddhism , but also in numerous other Eastern religious and meditative systems, it is assumed that a mental state of joy and balance can be promoted through self-knowledge and “mindful” and “right way of life”. The shared joy ( mudita ) in the joy of others therefore occupies a central position in Buddhist mind training and ethics.

Western philosophy

For the Greek philosopher Epicurus , joy (depending on the translation also “ lust ”) is a central goal of human life.


The Bible speaks of joy a lot. In the Old Testament in more than 200, in the New Testament in over 100 places. The Bible presents the joy in God as a source of strength (“The joy in the Lord is your strength”, Neh 8,10b  EU ), which makes it possible to maintain one's inner balance even in unpleasant situations. She counts joy as the fruit of the Holy Spirit . Service to one's neighbor can also bring joy to the servant.

Since God is essentially love and joy goes hand in hand with love, love and joy coincide in God. Joy is therefore ultimately “of divine origin”. According to his self-understanding, Christianity is “also a religion of joy” and it applies: “Christ is joy” (Pope Paul VI.), The message from him is the gospel, i. H. Message of joy; Liturgy is supposed to be a celebration of the joy of the resurrection. For Christians: “Rejoice at all times!” ( 1 Thess 5:16  EU ).

Further definitions

For Friedrich Schiller , joy is a divine principle, as can be read in his poem An die Freude ("Joy, beautiful spark of gods, daughter from Elysium "). It is the principle that drives all life ("Joy, joy drives the wheels in the great world clock"). It is also described as nature's own principle ("All beings drink joy from nature's breasts").

Erich Fromm differentiates between "pleasure" as a brief exhilaration and "joy" as the feeling that one feels on the way to human self-realization. For Fromm, joy as a principle of life stands in contrast to pleasure as a principle of life (see also hedonism ), whereby the latter, according to Fromm, is a characteristic of consumer society.

Special forms of joy

Joy of playing

With joy

Compassionate joy is joyful participation in someone else’s joy (just as compassion is participation in another’s suffering, i.e. compassion ). The term appeared for the first time under critical consideration of compassion in Friedrich Nietzsche . The ability to share joy is an essential quality for peaceful social coexistence and a prerequisite for multiple relationships . Where there is no sympathy, but resentment and competition, jealousy arises . In the subculture of polyamory there is a loved one for the shared joy than the joy of happiness, who is loved by another person (ie for "the opposite of jealousy") the designation Compersion .

malicious joy

Malicious joy is joy in the harm or misfortune, failure or misfortune of another.

Other special forms of joy

Here there are numerous word coining: pleasure in work , pleasure in the palate , pleasure in love , pleasure in playing , anticipation, etc. a. m.

Facial expressions of joy

The inner joy of a fellow human being is not explicitly recognizable, but is mostly accompanied by relaxation of the facial muscles .

When someone shows their joy, they raise the corners of their mouth. Guillaume-Benjamin Duchenne found out that when you really enjoy yourself, not only does your mouth smile , but the muscles around the eyes are also activated. The latter can hardly be controlled by the will, which means that there is no expression around the eyes in the forced smile.

The facial expressions of joy are almost identical across cultures (see e.g. Paul Ekman ).

Social meaning of joy

Playing children - the joy of catching soap bubbles - On the balcony of Dresden - ( Brühlsche Terrasse )

In eastern and western countries, the importance of joy for quality of life, health and social development is increasingly recognized. In Bhutan, King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck designed his Gross National Happiness as early as 1972. It became known worldwide through a UN resolution in 2011. The UK started assessing wellbeing at the national level in 2014. The Swiss Association of Connecting Worlds has been collecting the joy barometer among international executives since 2014. In Germany, the federal government founded the Gut Leben in Deutschland initiative in 2015 . These initiatives strive for a more conscious way of dealing with one's own concept of life and one's own health, with one another and with finite resources. Playing and showing the joie de vivre of children is no longer forbidden in many public areas in Germany, but is expressly encouraged.


  • Paul Ekman: Reading feelings - How to recognize and correctly interpret emotions. (Original title: Emotions Revealed , translated by Susanne Kuhlmann-Krieg and Matthias Reiss), 2nd edition, Spektrum, Heidelberg 2010 (German first edition 2004), ISBN 978-3-8274-2568-3 .
  • Hans Wallhof: Joy. In: Christian Schütz (Ed.): Practical Lexicon of Spirituality. Herder 1992, Freiburg i.Br. u. a., ISBN 3-451-22614-6 , col. 407-411

Web links

Wikiquote: Joy  - Quotes
Wiktionary: Joy  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Duden
  2. ( Page no longer available , search in web archives: The Primary Emotion, 2001, Alfried Längle )@1@ 2Template: Dead Link /
  3. Hans Wallhof: Joy. In: Christian Schütz (Ed.): Practical Lexicon of Spirituality. Herder 1992, Freiburg i.Br. u. a., ISBN 3-451-22614-6 , Sp. 407
  4. Hans Wallhof: Joy. In: Christian Schütz (Ed.): Practical Lexicon of Spirituality. Herder 1992, Freiburg i.Br. u. a., ISBN 3-451-22614-6 , Sp. 407
  5. Hans Wallhof: Joy. In: Christian Schütz (Ed.): Practical Lexicon of Spirituality. Herder 1992, Freiburg i.Br. u. a., ISBN 3-451-22614-6 , Sp. 407 (without proof)
  7. Measures of National Well-being Dashboard ( English ) Office for National Statistics. Retrieved April 13, 2019.
  8. Positive impulses for our society . Connect Worlds Association. Retrieved April 13, 2019.
  9. Living well in Germany . Press and Information Office of the Federal Government. Retrieved April 13, 2019.