Happiness, according to the Oxford English dictionary, is based on luck or good fortune. Joy on the other hand, is described as a vivid emotion of pleasure. Thus, happiness depends on circumstance; joy, on our emotional well-being.
At first glance, joy and happiness may seem similar but, really, they are quite different. We may be happy if we win the lottery, but we feel joy when we think about a beloved child or grandchild. Happiness may warm us, but it is joy that creates the fierce heat of emotion that takes our breath away.
We feel joy when we appreciate life-when we contemplate nature, when we recognize our freedom, and when we dwell on our successful relationships with other people; we feel joy when we have faith in something larger than ourselves.
Understanding the difference between joy and hap-piness is not about seeing one as better than the other, but rather about recognizing and celebrating the differences.
One way to understand the differences between joy and happiness is to think about their opposites. While the opposite of happiness is unhappiness, the opposite of joy is fear.
William Blake showed us the dichotomy between opposites. He wrote that two opposing emotions such as fear and joy expand and contract in direct relation to the presence of the other. We cannot feel total joy and total fear at the same time. This is why real joy is the absence of fear.Happiness happens when things go well. Joy on the other hand comes from a swell of emotion within us and sometimes has to be learned. Developing the ability to recognize and feel joy as opposed to continually feeling fear is a freeing experience. As we come to recognize that joy does not depend on more money, bigger cars, or longer holidays then we begin to recognize the strength of this emotion as part of our daily lives, as part of our psyche, and as part of who we are and how we view the world.
If you know joyful people, you will probably notice common traits among them. Joyful people are often healthy, both physically and mentally, they value strong positive relationships, and they don’t allow the extremes of life-sudden highs or sudden lows-to influence them unduly. Joyful people lead a more stable life. But these abilities do not just arrive; they have to be worked at.
Because we now recognize the connection between emotional health and physical health, teaching ourselves to be joyful may be one of the greatest things we can do to enhance our overall health. However, it is important to understand that joy is an emotion that arises from within us and is not affected by the things that happen to us. Instead of looking for external things to provide happiness in our lives, we must strive to find the joy within. We must educate ourselves about joy and work to enhance it in our lives. One way to start is to make a decision to wake up every morning and find joy in our lives. Think about a special person or a devoted pet. Think about the joy derived from a bird’s call or the joy of a day in a forest. It is our choice to be joyful or fearful. Let’s take the time to train ourselves to be joyful-our lives will be both happier and healthier for it.
For more information, please visit alive.com
Source: alive #254, December 2003