What is enjoyment?


Enjoyment is, for many, the most desirable of the seven universal emotions, typically arising from connection or sensory pleasure. The word happiness and enjoyment can be interchanged, although increasingly people use the word happiness to refer to their overall sense of well-being or evaluation of their lives rather than a particular enjoyment emotion.


Feeling enjoyment


We use the word enjoyment to describe a family of related pleasurable states, everything from peace to ecstasy. 

Source: Atlas of Emotions

What makes us happy


As with every emotion, there are some universal themes and many learned variations for enjoyment.


Common enjoyment triggers:

  • Enjoyment derived through one of the five senses (touch, taste, smell, sight, sound)
  • Witnessing or participating in acts of human goodness, kindness, and compassion
  • Relieving suffering in yourself and/or in others
  • Experiencing or witnessing something humorous or amusing
  • Personal achievement or witnessing the achievements of a loved one
  • Experiencing something beautiful, surprising or amazing
  • Feeling connected (i.e., to yourself, other people, places, animals, nature, a cause, spirit or religion)

Recognizing enjoyment


Facial expression of enjoyment

A smile is the universal facial expression to signal a person’s happiness. However, there are types of smiles that we use when we don’t feel happiness such as when use a smile to signal learned and culturally-specific social functions, or when we use smile mask to conceal another emotion. A true enjoyment smile is called a Duchenne smile and is most frequently identified by observing “crows feet”.

Vocal expression of enjoyment

Some states of enjoyment may be signaled with a sigh of content, squeal of joy, excited exclamation or shout, or laughter.


Sensation of enjoyment

The most common ways people describe the sensation of happiness is feeling light/uplifted, energetic, buzzing or tingling, warm, or grounded.


Posture of enjoyment

Depending on the state of your happiness, our posture can be either upright and elevated or still and relaxed.


The function of enjoyment


As a social function, expressing enjoyment plays an important role in signaling friendliness and assuring that we are not a threat to others. Many emotions scientists agree that enjoyable emotions motivate us to do things that are, by and large, good for us and the survival of our species (i.e., reproducing and child-rearing). Many emotions scientists also agree that the pursuit of enjoyment is a primary motivation in our lives.


Additional Resources


Learn to recognize and respond to the emotional expressions of others with our online micro expressions training tools to increase your ability to detect deception and catch subtle emotional cues.


Expand your knowledge of emotional skills and competencies with in-person workshops offered through Paul Ekman International.


Delve into personal exploration and transformation with Cultivating Emotional Balance.


Build your emotional vocabulary with the Atlas of Emotions, a free, interactive learning tool created by Drs. Paul and Eve Ekman at the request of the Dalai Lama.


Read Dr. Ekman’s guide to emotions, the best-seller Emotions Revealed.


Introduce the world of emotions to children in a fun way with Dr. Ekman's official guide to Disney•Pixar's Inside Out.