Joy VS Happiness: 11 Important Differences Between Each

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Have you ever wanted to gain a clearer understanding of joy vs happiness so you can improve your quality of life? Indeed, learning the differences between the two can help you live a more meaningful life filled with greater purpose.  

For starters, you might be surprised to know that happiness may not be the best thing to aim for. Yet, joy can be highly gratifying in a way that's not selfish. I must admit that before I understood the contrast between these terms, I thought they were relatively similar. But upon comparing joy and happiness, I know they're strikingly different.

I’ve also learned that I'd rather have joy. Of course, you might feel the opposite and that's okay. Before you make a decision on which is right for you, you might want to read on and educate yourself too. In this post, I'll tell you some important differences between joy vs happiness. 

What is Joy?

Joy is a selfless feeling of extreme happiness and pleasure. You may have joy when you care for others, are thankful or grateful, or have spiritual experiences. While joy often requires great self-sacrifice, you'll feel lasting inward contentment and peace. Furthermore, this feeling may not be about yourself, but you may feel this way by helping others become more content. 

One personal example I'd like to share of joy has to do with spirituality. Whenever I'm at my lowest point, this is where I turn. When I feel alone and as if no one's on my side… I look to prayer, meditation, and yoga to help me through any problems I face. I also see writing, painting, and drawing as spiritual activities and utilize these forms of art to help me get back on track spiritually and emotionally. When I am at my most spiritual, I feel intense joy that's almost unbelievable and indescribable

What is Happiness?

Happiness is an emotion that allows one to experience various feelings such as pleasure, contentment, bliss, and satisfaction. You may feel happy when you gain material objects or have earthly experiences. Although happiness is temporary, it causes a person to express elation outwardly. Furthermore, happiness is about the pleasure of oneself. 

An example of when I feel happiness is when I'm hungry and I'm eating my favorite food. Despite the fact this experience is nowhere near joy; it puts me in a positive state of mind. Another time I felt happiness was when my college English professor gave me an “A” on one of my English papers. In fact, I could almost say I was joyful, except it lacked the meaning and purpose associated with joy

Differences Between Joy and Happiness

When you imagine what joy and happiness are, you might not perceive any clear distinctions at first. But after you think more deeply about it, you'll likely come to the conclusion that the two words are exceptionally unique from each other. Here I've listed a few key differences between joy vs happiness.

1. Joy is constant while happiness is temporary.

For example, having a baby can make a person joyous and this feeling can last forever. But if you win the lottery, it can make you happy. In this instance, happiness is momentary and, eventually, your luck will be a past memory. 

2. Joy is about selflessness, and happiness involves pleasing oneself. 

Being selfless can mean ignoring your own feelings to benefit someone else. Although this can be a challenge, you can gain plenty of joy, meaning, and purpose from it. One instance when joyous feelings may arise is when you care for someone you love when they need you the most.

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Happiness is an emotion that allows one to experience various feelings such as pleasure, contentment, bliss, and satisfaction.

When you're happy, it can be fun, but definitely not as meaningful because it's only about pleasing yourself. If you go out to eat at a restaurant, it could make you happy, but this isn't a particularly fulfilling activity. But cooking the meal yourself can help you appreciate the joy of eating a lot more. 

3. Joy can be deeply spiritual, but happiness lacks depth.

Taking care of a pet can bring you joy, since bonding with animals allows you to connect with them. Plus, you'll always remember those times you took your dog for walks, taught him tricks, and played Frisbee with him outside. 

But drinking a cup of coffee or enjoying some nice weather can make you happy and content for a moment in time.

4. Joy is meaningful while happiness feels good.

Since joyful experiences are deep, they can also be memorable. For instance, you'd likely always remember holding your child's hand for the first time or hearing your husband or wife laugh. Buying new clothes can feel good at the moment, but clothes are only material objects. 

5. Joy is a choice a person makes, while people chase after happiness.

When you're immature, you might think you want certain things to make you happy and not understand the consequences.

To illustrate, you might chase after a man or woman because he or she's attractive and makes you smile and laugh at that moment. But there can be a problem with this because you're immature and only see his/her appearance and sparkling personality. This means the relationship will eventually be over because it started out for the wrong reasons. 

Additionally, you shouldn't have to chase after someone to make them love you. On the other hand, with maturity, you can consciously choose a partner who you share a genuinely mutual connection with. This could be a truly joyful experience with a person you love. 

6. Joy involves trials and hardships, while happiness is easier to achieve.

Taking care of a baby involves plenty of joy, but it takes hard work, dedication, and selflessness. Alternatively, you can make things easy on yourself by working less and settling for happiness. This means you can be happy by eating an ice cream cone. Ice cream is inexpensive and tasty, but you probably won't get much else out of it.  

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Joy is a selfless feeling of extreme happiness and pleasure.

I notice when I work hard, I have better experiences (volunteering, a purposeful career, etc.) that bring me joy, while the happy experiences I had in the past, such as riding carnival rides and dressing in trendy clothes, are now almost completely meaningless to me. 

7. Joy is transformative and happiness can hold you back.

Joyful experiences can be life-changing. In particular, you can get married and have a family or have spiritual or religious experiences (such as praying every day, attending church services regularly, etc.…) and gain a new depth.

Alternatively, happy experiences aren't as intense or worthwhile. Therefore, they probably won't provoke any profound feelings in you that are life-changing. One example is riding in a limousine you or someone else rented for a day. This could make you happy, but this feeling will wear off and you won't have anything to show for your wasted time. And wasting time on meaningless activities holds people back from making personal progress. 

8. Joy connects people to each other, while happiness consists of momentary connections.

Getting married can bring joy into one's life and help someone make meaningful connections that last a lifetime. You can have a new family who you love and focus on in a positive way. Another meaningful connection you could make is finding a real best friend who loves you for who you are and doesn't try to change you.

An example of a happy connection can be making friends in college with people who share your interests at the moment. I made this mistake and realized later on that I was immature at the time and made friends with people for the wrong reasons. Although they were likable and fun to spend time with, my interests changed drastically a couple of years later, which meant we couldn't be friends anymore. 

9. Joy is a less common, stronger feeling than happiness.

One reason why joy occurs less often is because it takes a great deal of maturity, selflessness, and effort. But with hard work and determination, you can experience additional joy. However, happiness is easier to achieve, so it follows that you can be happy more frequently. 

10. Joy is difficult to define in words, while one can easily describe happiness.

The intensity associated with joyous experiences can make it difficult to describe. In fact, you'd likely have to actually experience joy in order to truly understand how it feels in various situations.

Apart from this, happy experiences aren't nearly as deep, and most of us, if not everyone, have experienced them at one time or another. This can make them quite simple to describe. 

11. Joy can be present where difficulties exist, but happiness can't live in this space.

Namely, you could feel intensely alone and empty, but having spiritual beliefs at this time could make you profoundly joyful. However, the feeling of loneliness can be so intense that it makes it impossible to be happy.

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You may feel happy when you gain material objects or have earthly experiences.

You may find it a challenge to put a smile on your face or even head out the door and get a real life. To be honest, this is how I am when I'm feeling down and can't get out of a dark place. Luckily, I eventually come to my senses and take care of myself. 

How to Find Your True Joy

Since finding your true joy can give you a better life, we should focus on how to do that. You can find joy in smaller things or through profound experiences. Consider these tips on how to find your true joy. 

  • Volunteer: You can volunteer online or where you live to figure out what sparks joy within you. Some ideas for volunteering include reading books to someone who's visually impaired, teaching kids how to play a musical instrument or sing for free, walking dogs at an animal shelter, making birthday cards for elderly people, or something else that resonates with you. If you'd like to take volunteering further, you can foster or adopt a pet. This can give you a chance to give an animal in need the love and affection it needs to thrive. 

I currently donate my time by creating art, writing letters, and writing blog posts for a charity that helps people who have mental health issues. Other than this, I donate a few dollars a week to animal welfare organizations.

  • Write in a Journal: Writing down your thoughts can be helpful in piecing them together and understanding yourself better. Keeping a journal is especially useful for me because it gives me a way to clarify my thoughts. Committing to writing every day can give you a chance to see how your thoughts and feelings change over time.

You can figure out what brings you joy and work towards incorporating these things into your life. And whatever doesn't contribute to your future in the best way, you can figure out ways to put these things out of your life. These could be bad habits or even negative people that prevent you from obtaining pure joy.

  • Be Yourself: Being your authentic self means your thoughts, feelings, and actions won't be hindered by people who don't accept you for who you are. This means you can focus on understanding yourself and your wants and needs on a deeper level. You can try new things to get out of your comfort zone or continue pursuing a hobby you enjoy doing.

Besides this, creativity can help you express yourself in a healthy way and be yourself. You can learn a language, paint portraits, take photographs, do creative writing, play a musical instrument, get involved in theater, or plant a garden, among other things. I think creativity is fun and rewarding and I highly recommend it.

  • Socialize: You can try talking to family and friends about anything you'd like or just relax and enjoy your time together. By spending extra time with loved ones, you might feel inspired to start a family of your own or become a caregiver.

Moreover, meeting new people can help you see things from a new perspective. You can meet others by going to places you enjoy or heading somewhere you've never been to. You can join a book club, visit your local library, pay for a gym membership, join a sports team, volunteer in your community, attend a cultural event, or head somewhere else. 

Final Thoughts on Joy VS Happiness

All things considered, comparing joy vs happiness can change your life for the better. It gives you the chance to be better informed to create the future you truly want. If joy is what you want, make this a goal and write down steps to achieve it. 

We hope you've gained valuable information from learning more about the stark contrast between joy vs happiness. If so, you may want to inspire family and friends to add extra joy and happiness to their lives by encouraging them to read this post as well.  And if you’re in search of even greater enlightenment… look no further than our article on happiness vs contentment.

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