Joy and happiness aren’t the same. I’m stunned. I’ve always used them interchangeably.
Recently, I discovered that joy comes from within and typically requires effort in a selfless task; while happiness is generated by external events. As such, happiness may be fleeting when circumstances change, but joy is more long lived as that internally generated emotion or feeling can be perpetuated.
Some of the research that I found said that joy causes us to smile more than ordinarily and relaxes our face muscles and calms our nervous system. It has us laughing more which sends more oxygen to our brain and triggers the release of endorphins. Laughing can also lower blood pressure, releasing stress and boost our mood.
Ok, you might say, but happiness will also do that. Yes, that’s true, but joy lasts longer.
Contentment and Joy
Am I splitting hairs here? Maybe…joy implies a level of contentment that may not always be available with happiness.
Picture the contentment on the face of a new mother as she looks in the face of her infant with that motherly love. Picture the glow of joy on the face of a newly wed bride and groom, after making a commitment to someone they love. Image the look of a volunteer after fostering a pet. That is the face of deep joy.
Connecting with joy can also be a spiritual experience, not necessarily a religious encounter. It can be closely tied to your morals and how you act consistent with them in a given circumstance.
Why does it matter whether things on the outside make me happy or things on the inside make me joyful and content? There might not be any reason to care for a distinction but one: joy can co-exist with the negative emotions of sadness, grief and fear, while happiness doesn’t.
So, what, you might say, I’ll take either or both. I’m indifferent. That’s cool.
‘Tis the Season – Year ‘Round
Yet, there is something that nags at me. We are coming into the season of peace and joy so why don’t we talk about joy all year long, like we do in November and December?
As we approach the heart of this season closely associated with joy, observe your personal joy triggers, and strive to fill yourself regularly year ’round.
This is the season many of us a volunteer more and give generously of our time, possessions, and money. Others, do it year-round – a practice to strive for. Whichever you do – breathe in the joy and internal contentment. Make a promise to yourself to nurture the feeling and to deliberately develop a daily practice of joy. Start by observing what fills you with inner satisfaction. You deserve it and so do those around you.
How about you – does this distinction matter? Leave a comment below.
May you experience the gratitude, peace, and joy that surrounds you this season, surround you every day. I’d love to hear about the special things that generate joy in your life. Just leave a comment and tell me!
If you missed the last 3 Keys to Radically Transform Your Life and Finances, I’ve scheduled another on November 29, 2022, at 2pm PT. You can register here.
You can buy my book Everything I Learned About Life I Learned on Vacation here.