What is joy, and how is it different from happiness? How do we find joy?
This post is a little different from my normal recipe posts, so if you’re just looking for what to make for dinner tonight, feel free to skip on to my recipe index. At the beginning of the month (can you believe how fast January is flying?) I talked about choosing ‘Joy’ as my word for the year. In case you chose the same word or want to follow along, I thought I’d share a little bit more about what joy actually is.
It’s very rare that I read a book that’s not for work-related purposes, though I love to read. Lately I’ve been reading Daring Greatly by Brené Brown. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it, especially if you struggle with self doubt (who doesn’t), perfectionism or building meaningful relationships. It’s been incredibly insightful so far, and a huge eye-opener for me with my past issues with body image and perfectionism.
I bring up this book, because in it, Brené discusses joy and how as humans, it’s difficult for many of us to really feel joy because it requires us to be vulnerable. That to protect ourselves from feeling vulnerable, we immediately combat joyful feelings or situations with a foreboding that something bad must be right around the corner. We either live life expecting the worst, or we rehearse tragedy in our minds, constantly ‘preparing’ for the pain of what might happen to take away our joy. It keeps us from fully experiencing joy, making many of us “joy starved.”
Why? Because really experiencing and feeling joy requires uncertainty and emotional risk. We have to be vulnerable. And that can be scary as hell to most people. It is to me too, but that’s no way to live. And I’m constantly working on fixing that.
But before I talk about fixing it (that’s for a later post), I want to talk about what joy actually is. How can we find something we don’t know we’re looking for?
Merriam-Webster defines joy as:
- The emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires
- A state of happiness
- A source or cause of delight
But on digging a little deeper, there is more to joy than a state of happiness. Happiness is temporary. It is circumstantial, brought by good situations or things. And while happiness is good, it depends on external factors. So the saying, “money can’t buy happiness”? Not true. Money can buy happiness. But money can’t buy joy.
That’s the real difference I see between happiness and joy.
Joy seems to come from within. It is not tied to events, things or circumstances, like landing a new job, buying a new car or celebrating a birthday. Joy is more like an attitude. It comes from a spiritual place, no matter what your spiritual belief might be. It comes from inner contentedness and worthiness. From feeling connected to self and others. Joy is present regardless of circumstances.
To me, it’s obvious that to find joy, the first place to start is self-acceptance. Making peace with oneself has repeatedly come up as a theme in cultivating joy. So if you’re on a joy journey this year like me, let’s start there: self acceptance. To me that means practicing body love, showing compassion for myself with acknowledgement and forgiveness.
And because this post is getting too long, I’ll talk about tips for cultivating joy in another post soon. Do you enjoy reading posts like this? Let me know!