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Giving joy makes us happy and increases our mental health
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Giving joy makes us happy and increases our mental health

Nora Hille

July 24 has been celebrated worldwide as Joy Day every year since 1981. Independently of current world events, this day of remembrance and celebration takes place and is a real challenge for some of us, in whose backs of our minds there are multiple worries about the Ukraine war, inflation, the climate crisis, Corona, our own health and family. I find it all the more important to think about joy and to consciously allow it a space in our lives despite all these burdens, so that we can draw strength from it to cope with our everyday lives.

A smile gives us and our counterpart joy

Despite all our worries and the frightening topics in the news, it is a good idea to reflect on something very simple, where we are not powerless, but can take action at any time:

A smile is the shortest distance between two people. [1]

What a wonderful, expressive quote. Which shows us how easy it is to give others a sincere, heartfelt and therefore heartwarming joy.

It costs nothing – on the contrary, we get so much out of it that we can generously go through the world with our sincere smiles, gift other people with them and, in the best case, touch their souls – just as we allow ours to be touched when we feel: this one brief encounter, the intense look in the eyes, the exchange of two smiles was sincere and came from both of their deepest hearts. Then we have also been richly endowed.

Sincere and fake smile

Besides true joy, two other types of joy exist, but these are insincere and are manifested in the so-called “social smile” and the “masked smile.” But our facial expressions cannot be duped by this feigned joy. Genuine joy shows on our faces like this:

  • Through a relaxed forehead
  • Slightly raised cheeks
  • Upward pointing corners of the mouth
  • Lowered eyelids
  • Laughter lines around the eyes

It was the French physician Guillaume-Benjamin Duchenne who discovered in the 19th century that when we are genuinely happy, we do not just smile with our mouths, but that the eye ring muscles are also activated. And it is precisely these muscles that are difficult to control voluntarily. The sincere smile became known in science as the “Duchenne smile” after its discoverer.


Will you give me your smile?
I am glad –
from the heart.
How beautiful,
that you are there.
That you see me.
Our eyes meet.
We recognize each other.
My warm smile
flows over to you.
Light brown caramel,
who pulls strings and thereby
smells so sweet and tempting.
Your friendly,
compassionate view.
Who strengthens me,
tells me:
I have seen you.
I do not know you,
but: You are important to me.
I wish you
from the bottom of my heart all the best
for today.
Our eyes speak
this silent dialogue.
It is an immersion
into the soul of the other person.
We ourselves remain wordless,
but our eyes shine.
We greet each other friendly
with a nod,
perceive each other
for this precious moment
of a sincere encounter.

Nora Hille

Joy is not a matter of course.

It is a gift – and a gift at the same time.

The talent to go through life joyfully and giving joy to others is a human characteristic. Fortunately, we can train our capacity for joy. If we become aware of when we feel joy, these moments can be woven into our everyday lives like little rays of light.

  • A warm cup of tea.
  • The view up to the sky.
  • Summer rain.
  • The melody of the wind.
  • Barefoot running.
  • Being together with a confidant
  • A loving hug.
  • Little silliness.
  • A delicious meal.
  • Purring cats.
  • A profound conversation.

What gives pleasure with us?

Joy makes us breathe deeper and freer, relaxes us, gives peace, strength and health. It rubs off directly on our environment and fellow human beings. Thus I experience them as reverberations, as my inner echo of another’s joy. Or my original joy becomes a trigger for resonance, leading to contagious giggles and laughter. I see what brings joy with YOU. See how she paints a GLOW on your face with a sweeping brushstroke. A smile that breaks through any superficiality and makes your eyes shine.

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Smiling releases endorphins and makes happy

Both the own feeling of joy and the sincere giving of joy to other people together with a true smile release in people the happiness hormone endorphin, which is a very important factor influencing mental health.

Endorphin is a real miracle drug and strengthens our health in several ways:

  • physical pain is reduced,
  • it provides restful sleep,
  • has a calming effect,
  • the stress level decreases,
  • more sex hormones are produced.
  • Overall strengthening of the immune system and
  • as a result, fewer physical and mental illnesses.

Joy probably also needs its opposite, like sadness and depression, so that we can appreciate it.

Joy in one’s own existence is a happy, pleasurable feeling – and thus the opposite of anhedonia, i.e. the inability to feel happiness and joy, as well as depression with its pathologically depressed mood. The value we attach to a thing or a state of being often only becomes clear when we painfully miss it. The bright and warming sun shows its full grace only in alternation with the night. When we know their darkness, only slightly illuminated by the moon and the distant stars in the firmament, we understand what the sun and daylight really mean to us.

But if we are deeply unhappy or frightened by the news of world events, distraction with something that does us good can give our soul the breathing space it needs. Be it a walk, a prayer, listening to music, a warm cup of tea, good conversation – by consciously trying to let go of our worries, joy eventually becomes possible again. Even if sometimes we have to give it some time and work for better conditions for joy in our lives ourselves. It is still there. Small, silent and hidden like a frightened child who wants to be found again by us, who needs our help. If it gets this, we will sometime, perhaps even soon, be allowed to rejoice in it freely again, in our very own, sometimes small, sometimes large, sometimes uncertain, sometimes sparking […] JOY.

[1] This quote is attributed to various authors. One is the Danish-American pianist and comedian Victor Borge (civil name Borge Rosenbaum; 1909 – 2000), the other is Helge Adolphsen (*1940), theologian and pastor. The phrase attributed to him was almost the same: “The shortest distance between two people is a smile.” However, the quotation (in both variants) is also considered Chinese wisdom or the words of Buddha.

About the author

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Nora Hille was born in 1975, is happily married and has two children. She studied history, literature and media studies, worked in communications/public relations for 12 years and has now retired for health reasons. Today she writes articles on the topics of mental health and mental illness as a sufferer and experience expert. She also writes literary essays, poems (preferably haikus) and short prose. She regularly publishes her mental health column here at FemalExperts Magazine and is Editor of eXperimenta - the magazine for literature, art and society. Anti-stigma work is close to her heart: she is an encourager at Mutmachleute e.V. and is committed to Anti-Stigma-Texts against the stigmatization (exclusion) of the mentally ill in our society for more togetherness, tolerance and equality. In autumn 2023 her book "When Light Defeats Darkness" will be published by Palomaa Publishing. A book of encouragement about how to live a good and rich life despite bipolar illness - and the enormous challenge that this means every day for the inner balance of those affected.

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