Joy and happiness are often confused with each other because they seem similar on the surface. However, there a several distinctions that between the two emotions. Learn the four key difference between happiness and joy and how you can make joy a permanent state of being. (Estimated reading time: 5-6 minutes)
“Let your joy be in your journey—not in some distant goal.”— Tim Cook
Have you ever been around a person who just radiates joy? The kind that others always want to be around so that they too can bask in their warm, sunny glow?
I met a person just like that during a cab ride in New York City. From the moment I entered the car, I could sense the positive aura around him.
“Where may I take you on this lovely afternoon, miss?” he asked with a smile.
He was in his 60’s and wore a brown fedora and plaid jacket. Once we were on our way, we introduced ourselves.
“I’m a proud New Yorker. An Italian-American. So, don’t mind me using a lot of hand gestures while I speak,” he chuckled.
During the hour-long ride, he shared many comical anecdotes followed by big-bellied laughs as he steered the car through the heavy and chaotic New York traffic.
Curious about his natural ebullience, I asked him how he managed to stay that way through all the trials and tribulations he’d been telling me about.
“Life is too short. Why waste it on worrying and being a grouch? The ugliness is always going to be there, but I choose to see something good in everything because it’s there if you search hard enough,” he said. “Smile and enjoy every moment because one day it’s all going to end.”
That profound truth has stayed with me to this day. Every time I find myself sinking into self-pity and I magnify my troubles, I remind myself of the cabbie’s wise words – ugliness is part of the journey, and I shouldn’t give it the power to knock me off my center.
But, the mind is tricky. It needs more convincing than just a few poignant words from a total stranger. When we get stuck in a dark and constricted state of mind, it’s easy to dwell there.
If we aren’t mindful, we can stew in feelings of rage, jealousy, hatred, and delusion for years. The only way out of this is by connecting to the lightness of joy. Joy makes life smoother and more manageable, even when it gets tough.
Buddhists believe that the art of detachment is one of the keys to attaining inner peace. It’s a state in which a person gain higher awareness by overcoming their attachment to desires. When we lose our attachments to things that we think will make us happy, we allow life to move through us.
The philosophy states that everything within and around us is in continual transformation and that trying to control our circumstances are futile. When we loosen our grip, we establish an easy flow in life that results in joy.
Joy comes in different flavors. In his book, “The Second Mountain: The Quest For a Moral Life,” writer David Brooks states that there are four different layers of joy:
1. Physical joy – those moments when we experience flow while engaged in some physical activity such as running, gardening, or sports.
2. Collective effervescence – when people engage in celebratory dance and feel at one with those around them. Examples of this include concerts and wedding dances.
3. Emotional joy – the joy that we feel when we see an infant gurgle, a pet showing us affection, or when we fall in love.
4. Spiritual joy – it comes from unexpected contact with something boundary less and eternal such as witnessing a beautiful sunset or engaging in a ritual with which we resonate.
All of us can access these four sources of joy, no matter what our background. Joy is not something that we need to manufacture. It’s already within us from the time we entered the world, pure and receptive to all the love and wonder.
Be wary of commercial enterprises trying to sell their products and services by positioning them as sources of happiness. The marketing industry will do everything they can to make you believe that you need things to make you prettier, successful, and popular. This influences people to chase worldly desires as part of their pursuit of happiness.
Searching for external sources of happiness is the equivalent to chasing rainbows. Instead, we should work toward developing a natural state of joy. The first step of that is knowing the difference between happiness and joy.
Here are the four key differences between happiness and joy:
1. Happiness is fleeting, joy is permanent: Happiness is a transitory emotion that is tied to external circumstances, After we achieve a certain outcome like a promotion at work or reach our weight-loss goal, the happiness we experience dissipates, and life goes back to normal. Joy, on the other hand, is a permanent state of being that we cultivate over time. It is an attitude of the heart and spirit that becomes a source of strength and peace.
2. Happiness is self-centered, joy is other-centered: Happiness is conditional and specific to our desires. Happiness is something that happens to us after we seek and pursue our passions. It is an outcome that occurs when we finally get what we want. Joy, on the other hand, is something that we experience when we help other people get what they want. It’s the difference between winning the lottery and volunteering for a cause that’s dear to your heart.
3. Happiness results in elation, joy brings peace: When we’re happy, we feel a sense of elation. The emotional rush makes us feel good, making us crave it even more. For this reason, many people resort to quick fixes such as alcohol, drugs, and anything else that offers immediate gratification. Unlike happiness, joy brings us a steady stream of peace and contentment. Even in times of darkness and difficulty, joy resides within, assuring us that we have the strength and resilience to get through anything. Nothing can extinguish our light.
4. Happiness comes from the desires of the ego, joy comes from our spiritual-self: Happiness comes from the attachments that are linked to the needs of our ego. Author Eckhart Tolle said, “as long as the ego runs your life, most of your thoughts, emotions, and actions arise from desire and fear.” Joy does not need to appease the ego because it is rooted in our spirit. We can easily access it through feelings of gratitude and through connection – connection with others, connection to our creativity, and connection with a Higher Force.
Just like the sun that’s ever-present in our skies, joy can always be found within our hearts and souls. Even when dark clouds conceal the sun’s glow, it will continue to shine. When stormy clouds pass through your life, you can be sure that the joy within you will keep on shining, if you believe and seek it.
All my best on your journey,
Question for you: What are some of the things that bring joy in your life? How are they different from the things that bring you happiness?
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