Mudita – finding joy in the joy of others


“Mudita is a word from Sanskrit and Pali that has no counterpart in English. It means sympathetic or unselfish joy, or joy in the good fortune of others.” (1)

I bring up Mudita now because those of us who are sick often find it very hard not being able to participate in celebrations this time of year.  We feel we are stuck on the outside just looking in, and as we look in we are envious.  We can’t feel joy.  Mudita is the opposite of envy.  When we feel mudita we feel joy in the joy of others.  We are genuinely happy that others are having a good time, even though we can’t join them.

This feeling doesn’t happen over night.  It’s hard to overcome those feelings of envy.  We don’t want to feel this way, but we have to admit, that’s the way we often feel when things come up and we can’t join in the fun.  We don’t feel joy in the fun the others are having, we feel sadness and anger that we can’t join them.

I first read about mudita when I read How To Be Sick by Toni Bernhard.  At the time my husband was playing games with a group of friends and I used to be envious that he had this group and I didn’t have anything like it.  He’d call me from there and I’d get this knot in my stomach and feel horrible because of this envy.  Then one day I realized how much he needed this time, how much he loved this activity and how much my envy hurt him.  (even though I thought I hid it well)  I remembered what I learned from reading Toni’s book.  I remembered mudita.  It didn’t happen overnight, but in time I started feeling joy when hubby would call from his game and sound excited about how things were going.  At first I faked it.  I knew I should feel joy for him so when I talked to him I put on a smile and told myself how happy I was for him and how much joy this made me feel.  Did I feel this at first.  No.  But after a while when he called I was truly happy.  I felt joy hearing how the night was going.  I was no longer faking it.

When trying to practice mudita start small.  Start with someone you don’t know.  When you see someone win a competition feel joy in their joy.  Then when you give a gift, feel the joy the receiver feels (that’s an easy one, I think).  Take it one step at a time and you will be surprised at how much joy you can feel when others feel joy.

It may not happen this holiday season, but perhaps when you can’t participate in the next celebration you might be able to find mudita, and feel joy in the joy of others.

I recommend all of Toni Bernhard’s books:  How to be Sick, How to Live Well with Chronic Pain and Illness, How to Wake Up.  If you are chronically ill and haven’t read it yet, be sure to read How to be Sick.  I’ve read it over and over and keep going back to it.  It helps me live the day.  It makes me feel like I can get through this and thrive.

For further reading on Mudita, of course you can check out Toni’s books, but also check out.


29 thoughts on “Mudita – finding joy in the joy of others

  1. queerlytexan

    Wow, I love the concept of “Mudita.” You captured my feelings as a chronically ill person to the t. I want to feel joy for others and their successes, but I find myself envious of their seemingly “perfect” lives. I’m definitely going to check out the rest of your blog!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If this spoke to you, you may want to check out Toni’s book. She really speaks of this better than I do and she talks about so much more that has really helped me deal with my illness.
      I’m so glad you liked the post!!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Love this post. And I feel compelled to admit that I never fully felt what you call Mudita until I allowed myself to admit and then even revel in my envy and jealousy. I had to work hard to overcome the stigma of the so-called ‘curse’ that is jealousy but now I find if I can say ‘ooOOooHH! I am SO JEALOUS! I would LOVE that! OOhh how DELICIOUS that would be!’ It’s like a switch in my brain and I suddenly get flooded with joy that someone is experiencing something wonderful. Maybe Mudita and Jealousy are twins 🙂


    1. Rowena, I’m so glad you liked this post. and I love what you said. I can see how that would help. I’m going to have to try it. Knock jealousy and envy off their feet, Exaggerate it, laugh at it, in a way.
      They say mudita and jealousy are opposites, but opposites are often sisters, so maybe they are twins. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Mudita. Sounds like a song in the Lion King:) I will practice. I do have empathy, but I may be lacking in the sympathetic joy department Wendy. I am willing to try Mudita this Christmas when I am to watch a video, of my nephew who is also my Godson, that took place in Jamaica and I was not invited to. M-u-d-i-t-a! (help) I’m going to Wiki right away! Kim


    1. Oh Kim, you may need to start smaller, that would be a hard one to take. You might not be able to go, but at least invite you, right? Golly.
      As you can tell I’m still working on this too.
      Good luck while watching the video, you’ll have to let me know how well you did. Best to you.

      Liked by 1 person

          1. I must say, it went really well at Christmas watching “the wedding video”. I watched and looked at his face most of the time, he was so happy! And I was happy because he was… I also posted a link to your blog on my blog. (If not OK with the link just shoot me a note and I’ll remove it!) I think this is a very important attitude to work on. FOR ALL! Not just chronically ill folks… you have changed my perspective in to a much more positive one. Thank you Wendy!


            1. I’m so glad the viewing went well! Does my heart good to hear you talk of it.
              Of course I don’t mind you put up a link, I’m honored.
              I’m thrilled you liked the post so much.


  4. BEAUTIFUL post, Wendy – and so timely. I have been fairly good with mudita for most of my life – but I never knew there was a word for it (and you know how I LOVE those words!). Consider that your Christmas present to me – I certainly do.

    I shall put those books on my library list for 2017. They sound like great resources. THANKS!
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMore dot com)
    – ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder –
    “It takes a village to educate a world!”


    1. Wow, Madelyn, you are an amazing person to be able to do Mudita all your life. It’s a hard thing to master, especially when we are alone, and have a chronic illness.
      I think you will like Toni’s book How to Live Well with Chronic Pain and Illness. It has lots of those words. 😉 And lots and lots of good information.
      If they don’t have that at the library, be sure to check out her How to Be Sick book. It’s normally at the library. My therapist is reading it right now, I suggested it as she works with a lot of people with chronic illness, and she loves it.
      I plan on giving that copy away when she’s finished with it as I have a copy on my Kindle. It’s used, but it’s in good condition, I think someone will get a great amount of use out of it.

      Merry Christmas!!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I wasn’t so great at it when I was very young but, as the oldest of 5, I was sort of forced to learn fast! It was either feel sorry for myself or feel happy for them. lol 🙂 Fortunately, I picked the right one.

        It simply feels better to choose joy. But then, health helps. Physical and mental. When I have walked through the dark halls of depression, joy didn’t walk with me – so I DO get it. It can’t be somebody else’s should – won’t happen.

        I have already recommended this article and your book suggestions to a blogger dealing with chemo & radiation. Things are a bit tough right now for me, so I can’t take on anything else until a few things settle down – not even really helpful books. But I will check them out as soon as I handle a couple of urgents and a few more necessaries.


        Liked by 1 person

                1. Sending a prayer your way.
                  Question about your sleep.
                  Does your cycle change? Meaning, are you at times sleeping at night and other times during the day?
                  My schedule seems to change. And I seem to need more sleep sometimes. Like right now I find it hard to stay awake during the day, and I sleep many hours.
                  Just curious.
                  I think a lot of mine is fatigue, my body isn’t sleeping well no matter when I sleep.
                  Good luck tomorrow.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  1. Yes – since my body believes that the day is longer than 24 hours, my native cycle it “revolves around the earth-clock” unless I take stringent measures to keep my wake-up time rock-solid stable (so that my bladder can wake me “relatively” reliably.)

                    HOWEVER, if I am unable to fall asleep once I go to bed, that makes things trickier – and ONE early morning appointment can throw my chronos into a tailspin, since the only way I can be SURE I’ll be awake for it is to stay up all night. It take about 3 weeks to re-stabilize – during which time I can’t really be reliable during any of the daylight hours, since I also rarely awaken to sound.

                    I’m always nervous when I have an important day-time appointment the next day – especially when they’re after noon, since nobody ever believes somebody could sleep through an afternoon appointment.

                    It’s quite the problem, since the world doesn’t seem to want to believe in sleep timing disorders – or hear about them, it seems. People don’t seem to care what it takes to cowtow to their demands in this sleep-nazi “early to rise” world of ours — and often refuse to reschedule if you miss something.

                    (Yes, after a lifetime of struggle, despite my strong no-make-wrong stance, I’ve finally lost patience with everyone who seems to think it “should” be easy to manage if only I’d do what they do!!)



  5. Thank you for this post and the book recommendation, Wendy. I like reading books on coping with chronic poor health – anything that helps! I, too, miss out on many Christmas festivities and so try to make the most of the little blessings I have instead. Feeling joy for others is important too as we are connected to one another…and, yes, that can be difficult at times. xo

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I think it’s important for all of us to recognize that Christmas is a tough time for a lot of people…we all assume everyone’s enjoying the festivities, but there are people who can’t participate or who feel tremendous sadness this time of year. For many, the “festivities” are just opening gifts and eating too much food anyway, honestly. And that follows a month of SOLID stress about spending way too much money on presents most of us don’t really even need. That sounds negative…mostly I’m just saying what Christmas is really about is just spending time with loved ones, but hasn’t that gotten SO lost in all of the chaos?


    1. It’s okay to sound negative, you are right. Many people only enjoy, or see, the commercial side of Christmas. and that’s sad.
      Perhaps if we make an example of focusing on giving and love for others during this season then others will pick up on it. Of course, there will be those who will always want the commercial Christmas, but there will be some who will realize that giving means more than receiving. and you don’t have to go in debt to have the true meaning of giving. Let’s bring back the spirit of love and giving. Let’s lead by example. It will not only show people how they should act, it will make us feel better. I hope you find a way to make the holidays yours.


  7. I have been trying to practice this without a name or concept. I need to fight what I call my obsession, my demon envy that keeps me from enjoying the joy of others. I feel bad because I do not have joy in my life, sad because it will never happen to me, envy as in they are no more deserving, and the list goes on.
    So, I try to be neutral first — to not descend into the pit, the abyss of envy which leads to self-loathing at feeling such emotion, and guilt (as you outline in your post). Mine is born from emotional as well as physical unwellness, so the mind plays a large role in how I view other’s successes, joys, achievements — small and large.
    Then I try to be happy for them, or at least gracious in accepting they have something I do not, get something I never will, etc.
    I work my way up, though it can be so hard. Your post gives me the concept of mudita, something to ground myself in.
    Thank you for this and other mindful and enlightening posts. Though written from the perspective of chronic illness, envy is not confined to this group.
    I will reblog for the post and for the amazing comment thread it has generated.
    Wishing you a bright and brilliant 2017.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: Mudita – finding joy in the joy of others — Picnic with Ants – I tripped over a Stone.

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