What is Joy? Part 3: Joy vs. Happiness

Photo by Rob Owen-Wahl, courtesy of stock.xchng


From the time I began to talk about my experiences with keeping a Joy Journal, people have asked me, “Why Joy?” and “What is Joy vs. Happiness or Gratitude?”  This Blog post is the third in a four part series sharing some of my thoughts exploring Joy.  


Part 3: Joy vs. Happiness  

Joy and Happiness, while closely related, are different.  For some people, Joy may be your companion on the road to Happiness.  

Joy is simple and surrounds us, but many factors contribute to Happiness.   

Joy is an openness.  It is a willingness to see even the small good things around you — to allow yourself to give them due notice and to allow these things to lift your spirit.  It can be the sound of a 3-minute downpour while you were cozy indoors (or maybe you were out in it and enjoyed the sensation.)  Or ice cold lemonade on a hot day.  Joy can be the warm hug from a child.  Joy is personal, so you may not find these examples particularly Joyful, and I am certain there are things you personally love that aren’t above.  In fact, take a minute to name a few of the small daily things that give you the most Joy.  Do you feel a small boost from thinking about them?  

Happiness is more complex and multi-faceted.  According to Dr. Martin Seligman, considered one of the world’s leading experts on the subject, enduring Happiness is a function of three things: 1) the natural disposition you are born with, 2) the circumstances and events of your life, and 3) factors under your voluntary control such as planning and conscious effort.  The field of Positive Psychology offers a variety of methodologies for achieving greater Happiness, all based on scientific research.  In fact, you can take a course on it at Harvard or get a Master’s degree at University of Pennsylvania.   

Happiness is greatly affected by what happens to you, while Joy is something you carry with you.   

Illness, loss, poverty, heartbreak, and pain are all realities of the world in which we live.  And they can take a tremendous toll on a person’s Happiness.  These circumstances also make it more difficult to allow yourself moments of Joy, but Joy still surrounds us in spite of our fear, challenges or pain.  One of the readers who kept a Joy Journal for a month was a woman who had just been diagnosed with breast cancer.  She recorded her daily Joys while she was undergoing treatment.  In her words:  “How many tiny little snippets of wonderful happen in a day!”  Among her larger Joys were the support of friends and family, quality medical care, and the hope of recovery.  But she also recorded her morning cup of tea.  And now when she sees a sunset while driving, she pulls over to enjoy it.  These are moments of Joy that exist no matter what is happening, if you allow them in. 

I wish you many moments of Joy along the road to Happiness, and would love to hear your experiences with Happiness and Joy.  

Joyfully yours,

1 Response to “What is Joy? Part 3: Joy vs. Happiness”

  1. Hi Brooke,
    Great site!