Joy Vs Happiness: What’s the Difference and Can We Achieve Both?

What do you want most in life?

We’ve all been asked this particular question on multiple occasions. For many of us, the answer is simple – to live a happy life. We want to achieve happiness, and although the outlook of happiness is different for every one of us, that striking emotion still stays the same.

But why don’t we ever answer – to live a joyful life? Or to be joyful.

Although the terms happiness and joy are both very similar and may fall under the same category, they both spark different emotions for everyone. The words themselves weigh differently and bring an awareness to our consciousness depending on our situations.

Joy vs Happiness — What’s the Difference?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of joy and happiness:((Merriam-Webster dictionary: Joy and Happiness))

Joy is the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.

Happiness is a state of well-being and contentment; a pleasurable or satisfying experience.

Keep in mind, although this is the dictionary definition, we have the openness to determine what happiness and joy personally mean in our lives.

Joy is an emotion. It’s a simple and light-hearted spark that transcends through your body and leaves feeling good vibrations. It carries no burden or expectations.

Happiness – also an emotion – is usually accompanied with an attachment to an idea, a destination or experience. As a result, it tends to weigh profoundly heavier on our subconscious. Usually when we don’t meet these set expectations, it effects our happiness in the different areas of our lives.

There are many ways to look at happiness and joy and how we can achieve both in our lifetime. But first, let’s take it back by honing into our life’s work — also known as our purpose.

Anchoring our Purpose

We’re meant to have multiple purposes in our lives and not just one. We find our purpose through our passions and the things that make us feel alive.

As we continue to gain experience in our careers, relationships, partnerships, and living day-by-day, our purpose may begin to change. It may shift towards a completely different direction, but the anchor that keeps us in alignment with our values is the key to understanding what makes us happy.

With that said, here are the many ways to look at both happiness and joy, and how they both intertwine in our lives.

Ways of Looking at Happiness And Joy

1. Happiness Is a Destination; Joy Is an Attitude.

Take a moment and envision the life you desire.

That vision is a destination.

Are freedom and travel a considerable component of your vision? Or is it the stability and the comfort of being surrounded by your loved ones? Your vision may be of living in a cozy cottage surrounded by a luscious green yard in Europe or working for a Fortune 500 company in New York City.

Whatever your vision may be – don’t ignore it. Your vision is a destination, and the destination is the key to understanding your happy place and how to continue forward with that vision in mind.

One way to look at happiness vs. joy is visualizing happiness as the end-goal or destination whereas joy is the milestones that lead to the end-goal.

Joy, on the other hand, is light-hearted and simple. It comes and passes through without the heaviness of it being a “final destination” because joy is an attitude.

2. Happiness and Joy Go Hand in Hand.

Happiness is like rising bubbles — delightful and inevitably fleeting. Joy is the oxygen — ever present. – Danielle LaPorte.

Sometimes, we place a lot of pressure on the idea of “happiness” with the expectancy of it to be delivered in the most grandeur way. The truth is, we are never going to be happy unless we practice joy.

Gratitude is a way of seeing the joy in the little things. There are many techniques to go about practicing gratitude such as journaling and the art of subtracting, all with the intention of looking at things on a smaller scale.

Looking at the bigger picture can be overwhelming as we can sometimes get caught up in the negatives of life.

Take a second to look at the small things that create a significant impact in our world such as having access to clean water or having a vehicle to take you to and from work. We go about these everyday mundane routines without taking a second to think, “what if we didn’t have these luxuries.”

The more you practice gratitude, the easier it will be to see the simple joys in our everyday lives.

3. One Requires Control, the Other Doesn’t

Life is composed of the things we have and don’t have control over. Living also means learning how to navigate through life when we lose that control.

According to a report by The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, “autonomy” – defined as “the feeling that your life – its activities and habits – are self-chosen and self-endorsed” is the number one contributor to happiness.((Psychology Today: The No. 1 Contributor to Happiness))

When it comes to happiness, we sometimes feel trapped in those moments where if we acquire “x” then it will result to “z” (happiness):

  • When I have more money, then I can be happy.
  • When I have more time, then I can be happy.
  • When I purchase a house, then I can be happy.

We all know this isn’t the case and life happens unexpectedly where money does not easily flow and acquiring “more time” is difficult. Here, money, time, and a home are portrayed as “goals” we want to attain in order to feel fulfilled. These are also things we have control over.

On the other hand, break-ups or death of a loved one are deep and profound moments when we realize that as humans we can only control so much of an outcome. There are ways to still spark joy even in the darkest of moments.

With death, you celebrate the memory and the life of that person. Sharing their stories keep them alive in your thoughts and from those stories stem the emotion of love. Love, joy, and gratitude all intertwine with one another.

Breakups are difficult, because we are caught between a limbo of what we could have done differently vs. what has been done. You can still feel joy even when going through a a break-up by appreciating the little things that already bring joy to your every day life; whether it be a hot cup of coffee, morning run, or painting, these feelings of joy which you can tap into regardless of your situation.

4. You Can Still Feel Joy and Not Be Happy

You can still feel joy in an unhappy place.

Some of my best years in the work-force was working in an industry that wasn’t quite aligned with my interest. I enjoyed the company of my colleagues, and can say that working in a hotel has given me a solid backbone.

Yet, at the time I was very blinded by the fact that, “this isn’t what I want to be doing” and “this isn’t what I studied.” I wanted to utilize my degree in media, and cutting keycard and checking-in guests was far from what I imagined as my “happy place.”

What does this have to do with happiness and joy? You can still feel joy through your actions because your action is what is in alignment to your values.

It was through conversing with guests that I realized I found joy in human connectivity. It was through efficient teamwork, that I felt joy being surrounded by a close-knitted community. It was my value of having strong work-ethics that kept me grounded and accountable to my work.

All these realizations brought clarity because it sparked an emotion from me. Looking past the feeling of, “I don’t want to be here” taught me to see the reasons of why I stayed; to the point where I was convinced that I quite enjoyed hospitality.

It is possible to find these hidden things when you step away from the big picture. Once you realize how your actions play a role in your “joy,” you’ll begin to realize that happiness is but a destination that keeps you accountable to your goals.

Final Thoughts

Joy and happiness co-exist for an important reason – to allow us to live a fulfilling life.

While one is more accountable to our goals, wishes and desires, the other is a natural instinct and emotion that has always lived within us.

External factors and situations will always influence our outlook of happiness and joy, but life is to be lived and to be simply enjoyed. Whether it’s to be happy or to feel joyful, you clearly can’t go wrong feeling either.

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