There’s immense power contained within our interpersonal relationships – especially when it comes to influencing our feelings and mental state.
With growing isolation and toxic individualism on the rise, finding joy in the success of others and feeling empathy seems to be more difficult than ever. The lack of it can not only cause people to feel more isolated but also can grow resentment for the good fortune of others (a clear sign that some internal work needs to be done).
Decades of research show that having high-quality relationships is one of the most reliable indicators of your own happiness, health, longevity, and overall life satisfaction. The value of your relationships equals that of material living standards, health, and education in determining quality of life.
"Finding pleasure in another person's good fortune is what social scientists call “Freudenfreude,” a term (inspired by the German word for “joy”) that describes the bliss we feel when someone else succeeds, even if it doesn't directly involve us." - NY Times
Finding joy in the happiness of others is vital for not just ourselves but for our communities as well. Being able to share real moments of joy and happiness make up some of the most meaningful experiences in life. And we now know that neglecting the relationships that matter most to us is one of the most common regrets of people nearing the end of their lives.
While many people feel there’s less time and space for connection these days, the important thing when it comes to human flourishing is the quality of your relationships, not necessarily the sheer number of them.
Freudenfreude is what creates the glue that binds worthwhile relationships together.
Sharing good news and joy forms a big chunk of what makes authentic relationships worthwhile. It redefines the idea that we only need other people in times of need or distress. Instead, it turns out that celebrating wins – whether big or small – is just as important. It’s what scientists call ‘positivity resonance.’
The National Institute of Health describes 'positivity resonance' as “ a type of interpersonal connection characterized by shared positivity, mutual care and concern, and behavioral and biological synchrony. Perceived positivity resonance is hypothesized to be associated with well-being.”
In other words, when we feel positively attuned to others it supports our own mental, physical, and emotional health!! However, for this 'positivity resonance' to work correctly, it’s important that there’s a balanced give-and-take of sharing and receiving good news.
How to Foster Freudenfreude
- Ask questions that start conversations. You can start a meeting or a gathering by asking folks to share some recent good news. This sets a positive tone and encourages open communication.
- Share what you’re thankful for. Gratitude amplifies when it is shared. Establish a dinner time or morning family ritual to appreciate the joyous aspects of life together.
- Celebrate achievements. No matter how big or small, it’s a good idea to acknowledge and celebrate accomplishments with others to set the tone for positivity moving forward.
- Listen deeply when others share. Active listening is so vital in coaching, and important for making sure other people know you support their wins.
- Surround yourself with joy + positivity. Feelings of all kinds can be contagious. If you seek more joy in your daily life, surround yourself with happy people who enjoy sharing the good stuff in life.
By consciously creating more Freudenfreude within your personal circles of influence, you're not just growing your own joyful well-being, you’re also helping to create a more positive, connected, empathetic world.
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Podcast episode source materials:
Very Happy People -- Diener & Seligman, 2002
Friends without benefits: Understanding the dark sides of workplace friendship. -- Pillemer & Rothbard, 2018
Mismeasuring Our Lives: Why GDP Doesn't Add Up -- Stiglitz, Sen, and Fitoussi (2010)
Social Isolation in America: Changes in Core Discussion Networks over Two Decades - McPherson, Smith-Lovin, & Brashears, 2006
The Top Five Regrets of the Dying - Ware, 2012