Home » Happiness Tip: Take on Someone Else’s Joy

Happiness Tip: Take on Someone Else’s Joy

When was the last time someone else’s happiness became your own?

Last weekend I was at a fundraiser where several musicians were playing live. I was close enough to the guitar player, Jack, to be able to watch his expressions while I listened to him play. As I watched, I noticed myself grinning right along with Jack. He was totally in the moment, happiness flowing through him and his instrument, sheer bliss radiating from his face.

I realized that as I paid attention to Jack’s joy, my own emotions were mirroring his: I was feeling an expansive happiness. This is a phenomena my mentor James Baraz calls “vicarious joy,” and it is something that is easy to cultivate in our everyday lives.

Take Action: Watch for other people’s positive emotions. Who around you is feeling deep gratitude, or giddy happiness, or profound compassion? Let yourself “catch” their emotions, and take in the good feelings that occur in your own body as a result.  Even the joy of a dog can be contagious; my children frequently fall to the ground giggling as they watch our friends’ labrador play in the park.

Join the discussion: What is your favorite source of vicarious joy?  Share in the comments below!


  1. Yesterday I found myself mesmerized by a couple of faculty children at my children’s school. Two young girls were squealing with delight as the scooped up fistfuls of dirt from under a tree and then flinging it into a pool of water they realized that more dirt and more water would create an even bigger effect. I noticed looks of alarm growing on their mother’s faces so I said, “Doesn’t this whole scene just make you smile?” At this point broad smiles did break out on these women faces and we all shared in that nostalgic moment remembering our own days of mud pies or soups as the case was in yesterday’s case. This joy stayed with me all day.

  2. Miss Britt says:

    This is why I try to make a point to pay attention when my kids are playing or laughing. It’s so tempting when they are amusing themselves to use that time to get stuff done – check emails, read a book, etc. – but once in a while I force myself to stay present and soak up their joy.

    • Christine Carter says:

      Or maybe think of it as allowing yourself the vicarious joy (rather than having to force yourself to do it, which makes it seem like whatever else you are doing might actually be more joyful for you, in a way).

  3. one says:

    All nice, but I am “catching” also bad emotions and because I am a very sensible person I can not make a barrier to not “catch” every emotions from others.

    • Christine Carter says:

      But you can be aware of what is happening, and view it with compassion/self-compassion. Try narrating your emotions, e.g., “Jane is very anxious, and I’m catching her anxiety. I can feel my heart rate go up. I’m going to step outside and take some deep breaths…”

  4. Judy says:

    If I want to “catch” some happiness, I view the Where in the World is Matt videos on Youtube.

  5. Cristina says:

    I work near a Masque and an apartment complex that is a home to many different cultures. Across the street from those apartments there is a public school bus stop. In front of me there was a bus that was preparing to stop to pick up some, what appeared to be, half day kinders. All of the mommies were dressed in their sari’s and holding each one of their little One’s hands. As the bus came to a stop they all lined up and the children entered the bus one by one. It was such a precious moment as all the mommies were waving to their children and blowing them kisses while standing on their tippie toes to see inside the darkened bus windows. I thought for a momemt if one could capture that feeling of connectedness those mommies have with those babies at that very moment, it could nurture the entire universe. It was a precious moment and I find myself thinking of it often. I mention the culture of moms as it might be their first experience with public schools in the US and how they have to trust that their children will be safe until they come home. Again, what a precious moment.

  6. Carrie says:

    This is one of my personal goals for everyday: “Be so happy that others become happy looking at me”. My favorite moment of joy was after I got my happy puppy. She brought me so much joy that I was dream laughing and woke myself up. I’ll have to go check out the Where in the World videos. Great tip!

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