The Guide To Joy: Personal, Interpersonal, & Communal Joy

The Party Scientist
12 min readJan 16, 2024

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Read this to…

  1. Create more joy in your relationships.
  2. Master your inner emotional world.
  3. Lead group activities that foster joy and belonging.

Joy is the purpose of achieving, accumulating wealth, meditating, and doing inner work.

If you’re not living life with more joy, your efforts are failing.

If you are meditating, but it is not translating into more joy, then there’s a problem.

If you are making a bunch of money, but it is not translating into more joy, then there’s a problem.

If you are taking personal growth courses, but it is not translating into more joy, then there’s a problem.

The goal of all my inner work is to live life with more laughs. Laughs at myself, others, and the insanity of the world.

When I stumble or fall, I want to laugh.

When someone tries to offend or upset me, I want to laugh.

When I make a stupid mistake, I want to laugh.

Joy doesn’t only improve your quality of life. It improves your physical health. It reduces your stress. It enhances your relationships. It increases your cognitive performance. It makes you more creative.

Search up joy on Pubmed and you’ll believe me.

Joy is very much a panacea. It improves so many different parts of your life.

So, it’s important to work on your joyfulness and to implement principles that will help you laugh more, take life less seriously, and find the joy in your situation.

If you don’t make joy your yardstick, you may end up a depressed billionaire like Elon Musk. Although he has everything available to him, his mood goes from mania to depression often and his stress is beyond imaginable. According to his biography, he once stayed in his room alone all night during his brother’s birthday party in Mexico.

Joyfulness, the trait of having joy, can be reinforced. You’re not born with or without it. The purpose of this guide is to show you the 3 step protocol that has helped me become more joyful, to the extent that people always ask me: “What drugs are you on? You can’t be THIS happy sober.”

I began my life as an anxious, lonely boy with anger management. My sister and I would get in terrible fights, I would sometimes scream at my parents, and I was too anxious to speak to girls throughout high school. When I lost in sports, I would hate myself. I would beat myself up and suffer. When I got fired from my first job, I was depressed for months.

I was not as resilient as I am now.

Today, I can handle social media hate, psychological warfare, assholes sitting next to me on airplanes, tough feedback, and ostracization.

My journey with joy began when I started to journal as a daily ritual. Then, I started to optimize my health and mindset. Then, I did meditation and darkness retreats. And finally, I built a community of playful people who celebrate my joyfulness.

If you would like to read about my journaling method, please click here.

Everyone is on a different journey, and I’ve been lucky to get onto the path of joyfulness. As you read on and practice the principles in this guide, be gentle with yourself. Take baby steps. And remember that changing deep-rooted habits is a challenge for all humans. Celebrate whatever progress you make.

Let’s go.

Step 1: Cultivate Joy From Within

OPTIMIZE YOUR PHYSIOLOGY

Joy is a physiological state that comes easily to people with relaxed, healthy bodies. Joy does not come easily to people with inflamed, malnourished, stressed, dehydrated, or sleep-deprived bodies. The first step to becoming more joyful is to create the fertile soil for joy — your physiology.

Stress, dehydration, inflammation, sleep deprivation, pain. These are the barriers to joy. So begin your path to joy with your physical health.

REGULATE YOURSELF.

There’s another barrier to joy having to do with the nervous system specifically… adrenaline. When the body is in fight or flight mode, joy is prevented. This is called dysregulation. Anxiety, fear, anger, and panic are all forms of dysregulation.

To access joy, the body must be relaxed, safe, and accepted. The body must be in a rest and digest mode. The fastest way to get into this mode is the physiological sigh. Google it. It’s a technique I use every day.

USE SOCIAL DEFENCE SYSTEMS.

One of the most common causes of dysregulation is other humans. It’s contagious. So a defense system is necessary. The first defense system is awareness. When you become aware of your dysregulation, you gain power over it. You stop acting on it and allow yourself to make a choice.

The second defense system is turning off emotional empathy. It’s about distancing yourself emotionally from someone to protect your nervous system. It sounds psychopathic, but it works.

The third defense system is the removal of toxic, negative people from your life. When you do this, you don’t even have to activate system one or two.

So far, I’ve emphasized the importance of healthy physiology, regulated nervous systems, and social defense systems. This leaves the most important tool of all for cultivating personal joy.

ADOPT AN ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE.

According to the VIA Institute on Positive Psychology, gratefulness is the trait with the highest correlation to happiness. What does this mean, really?

At any moment, you can focus on what’s missing or what you’re lucky to have. What to complain about, versus what to celebrate about. What I mean by focus is where you use up your attention. People who are grateful remember what they have, find reasons to be grateful in adverse situations, and focus on the bright side of the humans they encounter.

Sure, you can cultivate gratefulness as a trait and change your personality. By using gratitude journaling and consciously finding the positives in negative people and life events, you can re-train your brain. But there’s also a way to leverage gratitude in-the-moment, right now, with no training.

Gratitude is a powerful state-change technique. It’s the fastest route to positive emotion. By visualizing people for whom you’re grateful, you can flood your body with joy quickly. And once that joy is present, you’ll perform better socially and cognitively.

All you have to do is pause what you’re doing, close your eyes, and take some deep breaths. Then, remember a few special moments with someone you really care about. Reliving the moments you’re grateful for will induce a positive mood.

Personal joy is that simple. Optimize your physiology, regulate your nervous system, summon your social defense force shield, and cultivate an attitude of gratitude. If you apply these principles in-the-moment, you can increase the chances of catalyzing interpersonal joy. Ready for level 2?

Step 2: Amplify Your Joy With Human Connection

Joy shared is doubled, sadness shared is halved. Humans are wired this way. We’re sensitive to each others’ emotions. We know how others are feeling. We transmit emotion to each other.

It’s possible to ignite much more joy together than alone. Even a one-on-one interaction can multiply your joy. This is why it makes sense to cultivate the social skills to evoke joy in your social interactions. Joy is contagious, and it affects others nonlinearly. That is, when joy is transmitted, more of it is created than used up (on the condition that it is received by the other).

This is how to multiply your joy with human connection.

CELEBRATE VULNERABILITY.

When someone is vulnerable with you, to all degrees, it’s worth celebrating. What it means is that this person felt safe being vulnerable with you. You did well. You’re really celebrating yourself… celebrating the fact that something about you made this person feel like you would receive their vulnerability.

Vulnerability comes in different forms. There is emotional expression: sadness, joy, anger, shame, and grief. There’s personal disclosure: life events, feelings, admissions, and requests. There’s also social risk-taking: doing something out of the ordinary, breaking the social autopilot. All forms of vulnerability, when acknowledged and reciprocated, build trust. They encourage another expression of vulnerability.

There are two things to celebrate. Celebrate the other person for their courage, and celebrate yourself for empowering the other person to be courageous. It takes two to tango.

PRACTICE APPRECIATIVE LISTENING.

On social autopilot, listening is not an active process. Instead, conversations move quickly with no verification of understanding. People will talk over one another and also talk at each other. There’s no acknowledgment.

Appreciative listening is simple. After someone has finished speaking, you share what you liked about what they said. You can also explain why you liked what they said. This has two effects: 1. encouraging the speaker and 2. reciprocating vulnerability. When you appreciate what they say, they feel heard and they feel like they share things in common with you. When you give them your why, they feel they can trust you more.

Appreciative listening follows the same rules as any other type: wait until they’re finished, pay attention to their words, and use your body language to encourage them.

BE STRATEGICALLY CURIOUS.

Have you ever shared a story from your life that changed how you felt as you were sharing it? When we share personal stories filled with joy, it can change how we feel. Same with things we love to talk about.

When someone in front of you has the opportunity to share something they’re really excited to share, it’ll change their emotional state and yours. So the goal becomes getting to topics that excite the speaker. This is possible with strategic curiosity.

Certain questions can get you to this place of conversational excitement quickly. Most of the time though, it is through follow-up questions. Someone will gleam over a joyful moment in their life. I notice what they said, I see the opportunity for storytelling, and I ask a follow-up question.

I like to use open-ended questions: What was that like? What happened? I also like to use: tell me more. The effect of these phrases is storytelling. The speaker will share a detailed series of events with me. Storytelling has a big impact on the human brain. This is why advertisers use stories to convince us to buy.

You can also ask direct questions to invite joyful storytelling. These are some of my favorite questions to ask, after sufficient small talk.

What do you most enjoy doing? What is one of your greatest achievements? What gets you out of bed in the morning? What would you do with your time if you had all the money you wanted?

REVEAL YOURSELF.

Just as you can be impacted by another person’s joy, you can impact others with your joy. The more you reveal your emotions and personal story, the more joy can be created. Here’s how.

When you reveal personal information, stories, or feelings, you show the person in front of you that it’s okay to do the same. You give permission for the other person to be their whole, imperfect selves.

When you express positive emotions, you can evoke positive emotions in the people around you. Emotions are contagious. What does the expression of emotion look like? Variations in tone, movement, posture, tonality, and facial expression. What does it feel like? It feels like a genuine human.

These are the two ways you can give permission to others to express emotion and be their whole selves: 1. disclosing personal stories and feelings, and 2. not shying away from expressing emotion (especially excitement and joy).

The effect of emotional contagion is in your favor.

Step 3: Amplify Your Joy With Community

Communal joy has the greatest upside but requires the most courage to create. When groups unite in joy, it multiplies more than in mere social interactions.

To create communal joy, you must become a facilitator. This is someone who guides groups to reach their goals. It involves public speaking, applying social technologies, and role modeling social risk-taking.

Having ignited dance parties in 16 countries, I know what communal joy feels like. It’s electrifying. After experiencing it, I am always left with confusion. Everyone becomes friends even though they haven’t exchanged a word! It has led me to conclude that communal joy is a more powerful social bonding force than conversation.

When I am leading a dance party, I start with public speaking. I introduce myself and encourage people to participate. Then, I apply social technologies; I invite everyone into a huddle with music. I get people partnering up and playing games. Throughout the process, I am demonstrating the activities and receiving a lot of critical eyes. It’s risky.

Becoming a facilitator is a lifelong journey, but it’s worth it. The best moments of my life have been a result of my facilitation skills. Here’s an example.

FOCUS ATTENTION & INTENTION.

It starts with speaking up and getting everyone’s attention. Public speaking. Once everyone is looking at you and listening, then you have the power to shape the joy of the group.

The next step is to give people reasons to participate and unite the group in a shared purpose. For what are we doing this activity? Why are we not just ‘being normal’? What is the benefit to me? Setting a group intention gets people bought in and gives them a framework to justify participating.

Recently, I led a parade at a conference. I focussed the intention by saying this: ‘This parade is about sharing joy with everyone out there (pointing to the conference). By sharing joy with others, we’re going to feel energized and high-on-life. It all starts with your courage to put out your hand and say ‘Join our parade, you’re welcome here!’

Most of the time, my groups are in a huddle when I am getting everyone’s attention and giving them the right context.

APPLY SOCIAL TECHNOLOGIES.

Laughter yoga, song circles, movement exercises, games, conversational prompts, line dances… even crowd surfing. These are all social technologies. Here’s a simple example that involves synchrony of movement, which is known to raise endorphins (a social trust neurotransmitter). The Disinhibition Drop.

They’re called social technologies because they rapidly elevate social trust neurotransmitters in the brain, and because they’ve characterized human behaviors since the cave-man days. Social technologies interact with our primitive brain circuitry and can scale social trust quickly to the group.

To use them, all you have to do is give your group clear instructions, demonstrate the activity, and voila! They’ll work with all sorts of humans. The problem is participation. If your community members do not see you participating fully, then they will not follow suit. In the demonstration of the activity, you must be happily participating. If they detect your reluctance to do the activity, they’ll also develop reluctance.

Disengagement is contagious. If you’re disengaged or most community members don’t want to be there, then it’s not going to work. That’s why we focus intention: to increase motivation to participate and to prevent disengagement.

You’ve spoken up, huddled everyone, and motivated the group to participate. You explained the rules of the activity and demonstrated them. Now, people are starting to participate. What do you do?

CELEBRATE SOCIAL RISKS.

You role model social risk-taking and celebrate it in others.

What does it mean to take social risks? It means going outside of the norm, demonstrating even more joy and excitement, participating wildly, disclosing personal stories and feelings, really appreciating others, throwing out the social autopilot, and not worrying about how you look.

The most critical element is the demonstration of joy. Don’t have it? Fake it. Jump up and down with your hands above your head and eventually you’ll have it. Change your physical energy and cultivate personal joy, then show it. If you don’t show it, you won’t emotionally impact others or give them permission.

What does it mean to celebrate it in others? It means using your body language and verbal language to validate and encourage others when they participate, making eye contact and nodding, telling people it doesn’t matter how they look, labeling their behaviors as courageous, and giving applause.

It’s all about positive reinforcement of the behaviors you want. It’s about verbally and nonverbally validating your community members when they participate.

If you do everything right, something like this may happen.

You start with personal joy, then you multiply it with interpersonal joy, then you multiply it further by becoming a facilitator and igniting communal joy. Each step of the way is an advancement in your ability to facilitate energizing joyful human connections.

In the 28 years I’ve been on this planet, this has been one of the conclusions I’m most sure of: Life is better together and joy shared is multiplied.

I haven’t discovered an activity as fulfilling as bringing people joy. It brings me more joy than I can ever imagine. This is why I sacrifice looking good and being right to bring people joy. It’s worth the sacrifice. Really, I’m the most selfish person in the crowd. Aha!

When you start to focus on other people and your world expands beyond the me-verse, you realize there’s much more fulfillment and joy to be found. Personal achievements and wealth accumulation only get you so far.

You have to train your joy muscles.

So share with me, how will you train your joy muscles?

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The Party Scientist

Human Connection & Belonging Strategist | Professor of Shared Joy | I help leaders reinvent how they connect their people and build community