Updated: Dec 21, 2022
We all have the capacity to live a life that is filled with joy. This is the feeling of being truly happy with what you have and the world around you. Being joyful is about inspiration, passion, and motivation. So, what exactly is joy? People often confuse joy with happiness, but they are not interchangeable. Joy is from within, regardless of what is going on around you. Happiness can be a blurred emotion, dependent on a situation. But joy is not a feeling or a consequence of our circumstances – joy comes from God and from the heart. As a Christian, I believe joy is found in God and the holy spirit (Did you know that the word “joy” is actually mentioned over 200 times in the Bible?) In Greek, the word for joy is chara. This describes a feeling of inner gladness, delight, or rejoicing. This inner gladness leads to a cheerful heart and a cheerful heart leads to cheerful behavior. The most important attribute of joy is that you can find joy in adversity. This can be a difficult idea to grasp, because joy might be the last thing we are feeling when facing struggles.
"Joy [Noun] - Choosing happiness even in darkness. gladness not based on circumstance. the simple essence of life." - author unknown
When you are joyful your whole body benefits, especially your heart and your mind. In fact, research shows that joyful people are generally healthier and have less of a chance of having a heart attack, in addition to having healthier blood pressure, lower cholesterol, weight management, and decreased stress levels. Also, studies show that happy people are more likely to exercise, eat healthy foods, sleep better, and avoid smoking. Fill your life with joy for better health and well-being. Below, are 5 health benefits of joy.
5 health benefits of joy:
1. Reduce blood pressure
According to Healthline, happiness [joy] may protect the heart by reducing blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease. A study of over 6,500 people over the age of 65 found that positive well-being was linked to a 9% lower risk of high blood pressure. Research also shows, happiness [joy] may also reduce the risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death worldwide.
2. Decrease stress levels.
When we are stressed, our body naturally goes into a sympathetic state (AKA: fight or flight) which produces a hormone called cortisol to help us fight or flee a scene. Overtime, excess cortisol from stress can contribute to many harmful effects on the body, including disturbed sleep, weight gain, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. However, a number of studies demonstrate that cortisol levels tend to be lower when people are happier. When we experience joy, our body sends neurotransmitter signals to our brain to produce dopamine (feel good hormone). Dopamine, among other hormones are important to help us regulate our parasympathetic state (AKA: rest and digest).
3. Good for your heart
According to the University of Rochester, high cortisol levels from long-term stress can increase triglycerides, blood pressure, cholesterol, and sugar. Over time, an increase of these promotes the buildup of plaque deposits in arteries that can lead to a heart attack. Additionally, prolonged stress can affect your blood’s clotting ability, making you a more likely stroke candidate. It can even cause long-term changes in your brain that keep your blood pressure elevated.
4. Boosts your immune system
Do you know a grumpy person who always seems to be getting sick? That may be no coincidence: Research is now finding a link between happiness and a stronger immune system. One study found that immune system activity in the same individual goes up and down depending on their happiness.
5. Increase longevity
In the end, the ultimate health indicator might be longevity—and here, especially, joy comes into play. In a 2011 study, happier people were 35 percent less likely to die over the course of about five years than their unhappier counterparts. When you are able to find joy, even in the hard times, your mind can go so much further and do so much more. Not sure? Try it out, when you have had a hard day, think about something that brings joy and see how you feel. I believe that your outlook has a huge impact on your longterm health.
During the holiday season, we are often reminded of being joyful. But for many the holidays bring anything but joy. If you are in a season of sadness, loneliness, depression, anxiety, or something else, don't let that rob you of your joy! Remember joy is found within. Close your eyes and take a few slow and deep breaths as you reflect on what brings you inward joy. Maybe write down a few things that bring you joy today. Below, are a few ideas that can help you to increase joy in your life.
A few ways to increase joy in your life include:
Surround yourself with people you love. Get out in nature and go for a bike ride, or a walk. Play a board game or cards.
Watch a favorite movie.
Treat yourself to a bath (if that's your thing), and add some epsom salt and lavender oil drops to the bath which is calming and will help reduce inflammation.
Exercise! Not only will movement create dopamine, which will release happy hormones, but it's also great for your cardiovascular system.
Read a book in front of a fire or your favorite spot.
Cuddle up with your pet.
Whip up a new recipe and share it with your friends or family.
Play! What's something you loved to do as a child? Draw? Color? Paint? Hula hoop? Dance in the living room? Blow bubbles? Do what brings you joy!
Create a “joy jar” - write down things that went for you and your family during the year and then review them at the end of the year.
Andrea is a certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP) and founder of Rising Roots Nutrition. She lives in Orange County, California with her husband, two kids and Goldendoodle. In addition to her NTP certification from the Nutritional Therapy Association (NTA), she also holds a B.S. in Marketing and an M.A. in Counseling from San Diego State University. She is passionate about helping people get to the root cause of their symptoms, so that they can reclaim their health and find joy again.