Sunday, February 27, 2011

Joy v. Happiness

 Last month at book club, one of the members shared an article that she'd read recently that said we should all strive to experience 15 minutes of joy each day of our lives.   It prompted a huge discussion that carried  over into this month and this continues to be something I'm trying to figure out for myself. 

One of our club members is happy - all the time, and I do mean all the time.  I've seen her put to the test recently in her workplace and even under very negative circumstances she "shifted gears" so to speak.  She remained very happy but at the same time announced that the changes had given her new direction and a new focus.  I too consider myself a very happy person almost all the time.  It's rare that I cry though I can recall one time in my life that I've been really depressed.  There have been events that have made me sad, like the death of my sister-in-law and my dad, but generally I'm happy.   The discussions in our book club became interesting when two very happy people tried to figure out the difference between joy and happiness.  

I've always viewed happiness as a state of being.  I choose happiness and enjoy surrounding myself with things, people and events that make me happy.   When I was growing up my grandpa used to remind me "happy is the girl with a song in her heart" and because of his constant reminder I've continued to hum to myself my entire life, even when my life wasn't happy.  

To me, joy is a much stronger, deeper emotion.  Joy has a much higher threshold and is longer lasting.  It comes from a spiritual or heavenly place.  Having grown up hearing the phrase, "tears of joy" I think of joy as being something very deep within us filled with maximum emotion.   When I hear my granddaughters enjoying life and giggling at nothing at all, that is joy.  The mere sight of a rainbow, my children or my grandgirls brings me pure joy.
My happy friend/book club members sees happiness and joy as much the same - both spiritually based.  I'm very interested to hear your thoughts on the topic.


  1. What a great post....and I love that it is thought-provoking.
    I believe that happiness is something that I can choose. It's an attitude, a way of looking at life with the expectation that, no matter what difficulties are put in one's path, one can choose to approach them with a happy outlook.
    Joy, on the other hand, is a gift - a shot out of the blue - unexpected and unasked for. Joy descends on a person and lifts her up. Joy can't be summoned. It catches one unaware.

  2. I was struggling to find the words to describe why I feel that Joy is something different, something more, than Happiness and then I read what Pondside said.
    She really has a way with words and put my ideas into a paragraph for me.
    Happy is what I conciously choose to be, every day, as much as possible.
    Joy is something unexpected - you reconnect with an old friend, you wake to a snowy landscape, you see moorhen chicks running around the vegetable garden and it always leaves you feeling grateful for being alive!

  3. Perfectly said, Pondside and Maggie.

    I also feel that it's a question of depth.

    We named our daughter 'Andrea Joy' which means 'womanly joy' and upon looking up the meaning of the name, we found that the word "joy" was most often connected with scriptures about finding "joy in the Lord" which gives it a slightly deeper, more spiritual meaning for me.

  4. Well, I'm going to have to fall in right behind my good friends Pondside and Maggie. They have expressed my feelings exactly. I'm a happy person. Just the way I look at life. Joy on the otherhand is a feeling that comes with unexpected life gifts ~ it can be as profound as the birth of a much wanted baby in the family, or simply chancing upon something beautiful in nature. I take joy in the simple things in life. ~ Sarah

  5. Happiness, to me, is dependent upon circumstances of life. It's an attitude that, like Pondside expressed, can be chosen.

    Joy, on the other hand, is a deeper emotion - the feeling that "all's well with my world." It definitely has a spiritual basis. Even though things may NOT be going well, I can be joyful in knowing that God is in control, that there is a purpose even though I don't understand. Joy can well up out of any circumstance, be exuberant or subdued, and as Pondside said, is a gift.

  6. What a thought provoking post. I like your anaysis of the difference between happiness and joy. Joy does seem to be deeper.

    So many days time just seems to roll by us - things to do, places to go. You make me realize I need to strive to adjust my thoughts towards happiness. Pondside has an interesting twist. I'm not sure that happiness is something you can always choose, but I think I've got to work on making that choice more often when I can.

    Thanks for a great post.

    - The Tablescaper

  7. Happiness is an active, chosen state, where joy is a passive, receiving state... I think that Pondside said it best.

    Love your blog, my friend.

  8. What a thoughtful and thought provoking post. You have given me much to think about at a time when I need to examine these parts of my life.

    Thank you.

    Bless you.

  9. I am so busy, I never take the time to feel the joy in my life. Thanks for reminding me to listen to myself a little more often.

  10. Hmmmm..what an interesting topic! I do think of happiness as an adjective and joy as a noun. Happiness is a part of something and joy is an end result of something special. Therefor I think it easier to say "find 15 minutes of happiness" each day than joy, as joy is harder to attain. Joy is serendipitous, while happiness can be a state of mind.