What does Joy mean to you?  I have been thinking about joy recently, and wrote about Happiness a few months ago.  It got me thinking about when I am feeling joy and when I am not feeling joy, what is happening for me?  I am probably a ‘half glass full’ person but sometimes I can find that when I compare myself to others, I don’t feel joy at all.  In fact I might feel jealousy or even envy.  Social media is a great way for us to compare ourselves to others, and this does nothing to ‘fill our cup’.

Jealousy is about a fear of losing a relationship or missing out on having what others have.  Envy is said to be, where I want what others have but don’t want them to have it, and I even want the other person to suffer some loss.  The German language gives us the word Schadenfreude, which has crept into the English vernacular.  This word is a composite of two words, Schaden which means damage or loss and Freuden which means joy. So put together this means experiencing joy when someone else experiences loss.  This German word captures a nuanced human emotion and is not captured by one word in the English language.  This emotion described is about being happy when someone loses something even if I can’t have it.  When I think about it, I see this in myself at times.   

A recent example I have might seem like a ridiculous thing to be envious or jealous of, but it was related to my garbage bin.  Everyone in my street had a red lid bin and I had the ancient dark green lid bin.  I rang the local council to find out why I did not have the more modern bin as my neighbours, considering I too pay the same rates they do.  It turned out, the rollout of the more modern bins pre-dated my move into the area and so if I wanted one, I would have to pay for it.  My other option was to have my current bin repaired at no cost.  Considering I am frugal with unnecessary expenses (read next month’s blog on money scripts) and don’t like being wasteful I opted for the free repair.  The next day I found my bin repaired with new wheels and the modern red lid.  I was filled with joy!  I told all my neighbours about my FOMO about my bin situation.  

Another word in the German language that captures human emotion is Freudenfreude which literally translates to joy-joy.  It means that I am happy about the success of others.  This would be a quality I would want to possess as a friend, and I would want my closest people to also be happy with my success.  My experience is that this is not always the norm and that in a world with social media, we are often comparing ourselves to others and not feeling joy-joy, but feeling jealousy, envy or Schadenfreude (joy when someone else experiences loss).  An example of this could be feeling secretly pleased when a friend misses out on a promotion or a house purchase at auction. Even when we are not going for the job or that house.

Some researchers are showing that there are practices we can do that help us experience Freudenfreude (joy-joy), such as meditation, mindfulness and showing self-compassion.  This is akin to ‘positive empathy’, ‘empathic happiness’ or ‘sympathetic joy’.  These practices help us not be focussed on comparison, which takes us down the path of jealousy and envy. Instead, we are likely to feel more vicarious joy and personally I like feeling joy.   I personally make an effort not to compare myself to others to avoid negative thought processes. Practices that I choose to create more joy/joy (Freudenfreude) in my life include being out in nature, doing yoga, spending time with friends, and walking. Finding a balance of this assists in workplace/home balance to set you up for being able to handle workplace challenges.

Who would have thought waste bins could bring so much joy!


Is ‘freudenfreude’ the key to happiness?  A growing number of experts say yes. By Christine Sismondo (20 April , 2023)