Analyzing joy vs. happiness doesn’t seem to make sense, does it? But the truth is, these emotions are two different things, and we must take a closer look.

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want to be happy, and I also can’t think of a soul who’d rather not have joy. But despite what seems to be a redundant statement, it’s smart to look beyond the words and into their true meaning. Joy is not happiness, and both are positive things.

Joy vs. Happiness: 5 Crucial Differences

Sometimes I feel joy inside, and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I am so happy I could burst, and sometimes I feel quite the opposite. These emotions, both of them, are positive feelings.

But one is a positive force that stays for longer periods of time, maybe even permanently as a person grows older. This one is related to wisdom, the other is related to outside factors. So, to understand, again, we look at the differences between joy and happiness. Here are a few details:

1. Material pleasures vs. selflessness

One of the most noticeable differences between joy and happiness is how they are based. While happiness can come from getting a gift, buying a new record, or winning the lottery, joy doesn’t work this way. Happiness is a more material-based emotion, and it can come quickly and leave just as quickly.

I hear so many people talk about how they want to be happy, and I wonder how long they expect that to last. Happiness is not what you think it is.

Joy, on the other hand, comes more from what you can do for others. Don’t you recognize that warm feeling inside when you help an elderly lady carry her groceries, or when you give someone money to help with their bills? That is called joy.

You’ve found joy in the good deeds you’ve done. Joy is in thankfulness too, as you let someone know they are appreciated.

2. Elation vs. contentment

Happiness is elation. It is sudden pure excitement in response to some sort of great news. You cheer, you clap, and even sometimes do what’s called ‘the happy dance’. Now, there’s nothing wrong with this at all, but it’s short-lived.

That is, most of the time, what’s making you elated is temporary good news, and you usually know this when it happens. Maybe you’re going on a trip, and you will soon come back. But for the time being, you’re excited and elated. Dare I say, happy?

There is contentment when you feel joy. Maybe you aren’t super excited or going on some vacation, but you are at peace. Things seem to be good with how you feel, and you’ve been working on these feelings for quite some time.

Contentment comes from long-term feelings. It’s joy derived from accomplishing something you’ve been trying for a while, finally achieving what you’ve set out to do.

3. Outside vs. within

If a loved one hugs you, it will probably make you happy. If they buy you lunch, this will probably make you even more excited. Whatever it is, any positive outside force that affects you personally will more than likely make you feel… happy. Gifts make you smile, compliments lift your spirits, and jokes make you laugh.

All these have one thing in common when they make you happy – they involve an outside force. Understanding the effect of outside forces helps you see the differences in joy vs. happiness.

How you feel about yourself within has nothing to do with anyone else. Joy is found inside where the foundation of your self resides. You can find joy in knowing your own self-worth without getting a hug or a compliment.

Joy is closer to what some people call ‘real happiness’. But hey, it’s still joy. It’s your love for yourself despite anything in your environment.

4. Senses vs. response

When you’re happy, then you’ve used your senses to determine that something good is going on in your life. Maybe you’re in a healthy relationship or have a good job –  it could be either of those things.

Your senses, since they recognize both positive and negative things, govern whether or not you will be happy at any given moment. Your senses relaying messages to your emotions is why happiness comes and goes.

Even when something negative happens and your senses relay the influences to your emotions, you can have joy. You may not be happy anymore, but you have the opportunity to decide how you will react. And it’s how you react to the situation that will determine if you keep cultivating the joy inside you.

One way you can diminish joy is if you react negatively all the time, so remember this. Otherwise, no matter how bad it gets, you can have joy inside.

5. Temporary vs. permanent

It comes and goes, happiness does. One moment it’s here and the next you may be crying your eyes out. This is because the true definition of happiness is a feeling derived from surrounding positivity.

When negativity moves in, you can sometimes feel this good feeling slipping away. Sometimes happiness is ripped away quickly if something sudden occurs. But basically, it’s a temporary emotion.

Joy, if you hold on tight, can be a permanent part of your life. It can become a mindset, a characteristic, or something gripped tightly through your will. No one has to steal this thinking process away from you if you’re determined enough to keep it.

So joy can be grafted onto your emotions helping you see everything that happens in a new way.

Which do you prefer?

Now you can stop thinking about joy and happiness as being the same thing. It’s not, by a long shot. As for me, I try to lean toward joy because I want my life experience to be based upon the strength within myself.

Yes, I let the world get to me and affect my moods sometimes, we all do. We just have to keep in mind who we really are. Just remember, that fleeting happiness you feel when opening a gift is not what life is all about.

It’s okay to be happy and enjoy life, but don’t forget to feel the joy within that shines bright when things grow dark.

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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Carolyn

    Beautifully thought through and expertly written. Thank you for your gift.

    1. Sherrie Hurd, A.A.

      Thank you for the lovely comments, Carolyn. Thank you for reading. Have a blessed day.

  2. Charles Muller

    Great article! I totally agree with your points! I always called joy “contentedness” always taught my health students to seek that as opposed to happiness which is only momentary.

    1. Sherrie Hurd, A.A.

      Thank you for reading, Charles

      I try to seek joy as much as possible. Joy seems to help me retain a healthy self-awareness. People can sometimes try and bring you down, but if you have joy, you can overcome negativity.

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