My hunch is that joy is an ember for or precursor to wild and unpredictable and transgressive and unboundaried solidarity. And that that solidarity might incite further joy. Which might incite further solidarity. And on and on. My hunch is that joy, emerging from our common sorrow — which does not necessarily mean we have the same sorrows, but that we, in common, sorrow — might draw us together.

Ross Gay

Welcome to Day Three of Say Yes to Joy

Joy experienced in communion with others is good for all involved; it unites us around what we value and care for, and it increases our sense of connection and belonging. When we experience joy with others, our spirits are enlivened, and we’re more likely to feel generous toward those who are part of the joy with us. Connecting through joy occurs most obviously when celebrating grand occasions like births, graduations, and weddings. And it can certainly be felt at sporting events, in concert halls, and on the dance floor. On the daily level, connecting through joy is available in our one-to-one interactions with family members, friends, a neighbor, the store clerk, a waiter. When you choose to connect through joy, you nurture a sense of belonging for yourself and those around you.

To settle in to today’s practice, give yourself the delight of watching the joy of these kids from around the world singing Kool and the Gang’s Celebration, a project of Playing for Change. The video is a moving reminder of the essential role of communal joy and its power to connect us to one another.

Today’s Practice

Today’s invitation is to commit to one act of joy that nourishes your connection to others. Here are some suggestions to help you get started:

  1. Identify a relationship you’re grateful for, perhaps one that needs some nourishment and healing, and share something joyful with that person: a poem, a song, an uplifting text or phone call, a batch of cookies. Keep it simple enough that it will fit into your day.
  2. Host an impromptu joy gathering. Ask your family members, friends, or colleagues to join you for 5 minutes — whether in your living room, at the office, or online — to share some joy. You can bring the joyful offering or simply invite people to share what’s bringing them joy right now. 
  3. Take a look at the community events happening near you or online in the next week: a concert, a community garden work session, an exhibit, free Yoga at the park. See if you can find something new to try, and make a firm plan to participate, either on your own or with a friend (even if online), and tap into the collective experience of joy.

Choose one of the above actions or something inspired by these examples. At the end of the day, reflect on the following (modify as needed if you choose #3):

  • What resulted from your effort to connect with others through joy?
  • Did your intentional sharing of joy shift your relationship(s) in any way?
  • In what ways did joy serve as a meaningful bridge to others in your life?

Scroll all the way to the bottom of the page to find the Community Conversation space where we invite you to share your reflections.

Deepening Resource

Ross Gay on Inciting Joy While Dining with Sorrow, A Conversation with Brittany Luse on NPR’s It’s Been a Minute, Audio

Treat yourself to 19 compelling and joyful minutes of Ross Gay talking about the necessity of joy, the relationship between joy and sorrow, the connection we find through joy, and the way joy feels in the body. Ross Gay is the author of The Book of Delights and Inciting Joy, among others.

Research Highlight

Tuning in to other people’s joy is an example of positive empathy, which is “linked to greater life satisfaction, peace of mind, and happiness. It is also associated with greater trust, support, and satisfaction in close relationships.” Even when we ourselves are not feeling particularly joyful, noticing other people’s joy has positive benefits for us. 

How to Overcome Stress by Seeing Other People’s Joy, Greater Good Science Center

Photo by Guille Alvarez