Joy is an emotional response that typically arises when something positive has happened to you or to someone important to you. It also arises when your needs are met. Thus, the feeling of joy helps you to know what’s important to you and makes you seek more of it. For instance when you feel joy at the sight of someone you like, the emotion of joy lets you know how good it is to be with that person and that he or she means a lot to you.
Joy also serves an important social function. Expresing joy makes those around you know that you appreciate them. When you share joy with other people, the feeling might increase in intensity and you feel more connected with those around you. Conversely, expressing joy to others , but not have it reciprocated, can be quite painful. Many who have grown up in homes where expressions of joy are inhibited might feel shameful of their own joy.
Joy often feels like a lightness in your body, like you’re a little warm, getting more energy and maybe bubbling a bit on the inside. It is also common to express tears of joy. This often happens when you experience a big relief, for instance in the aftermath of something difficult or scary.
When joy is a secondary emotion, it often covers up a different and more difficult emotion, for instance when someone smiles while tlaking about something sad. Sometimes we use joy in an instrumental way, like when you try to create a good mood even if you don’t feel happy. The phenomenon of schadenfrueude – when you are delighted due to something negative happening to another person – may serve a social function in conflict, but is probably about an underlying anger toward the other.
Joy is rarely a problem in itself, with the exception of hypermania and substance abuse. Usually, joy is a problem when there is too little of it. Lack of joy usually is an indicator for other emotional needs that are not being met.