Difference Between Joy And Happiness: Comparison, Definition, Examples

Take a moment to envision your life. Are you happy? Or are you joyful? Do you understand what the difference between joy and happiness is?

The terms happiness and joyful are commonly interchanged. You can hear someone say that they are joyful or you can hear someone say that they are brimming with happiness. No doubt the two are related in that they both represent a positive emotion – but there is a difference.

So, let’s uncover the difference these two words before we look at our final thoughts.

What Is The Difference Between Joy And Happiness?

Happiness and joy may sound like the same thing but there’s a difference.

Happiness is essentially a state of contentment and well-being. It is something that we experience where we feel emotions such as; satisfaction, contentment, pleasure and bliss. It often occurs when we have a satisfying experience.

Some psychologists claim that there are three elements to happiness: the pleasant life, the good life, and the meaningful life brought about by different factors in our lives.

Happiness can often be connected to an experience, idea or even destination.

Whereas, joy is not as common as happiness.

Joy is seen as a deeper emotion, which involves selflessness to the point of feeling connected spiritually to people or on one’s faith in God through Jesus Christ. It is evoked by success, good fortune, giving to others and often leaves you feeling light.

Having joy doesn’t mean that we don’t experience grief, sadness, pain, and happiness in life. Pure joy is deeper and consistent, as it persists in all circumstances.

Often the individual trusts in God to see them through all circumstances. Great joy is lasting, while happiness is often fleeting.

Let’s dive deeper into what the difference between happiness and joy is.

1. Happiness Is Bliss And Joy Is Selfless

Another key difference between joy and happiness is that happiness is a blissful feeling whereas joy is selfless.

When we describe bliss it is often something that could end in an instant or something that is essentially ephemeral and fleeting. Happiness is often not something that lasts.

For example, we may feel happiness when we get hired for our dream job but often when the daily grind kicks in, that happiness fades.

However, when we talk about joy – it is selfless.

This essentially means that we are joyful when we aren’t seeking personal gain. For example, when you volunteer and feed the homeless at our local shelter, this may bring you great joy because it is a selfless act that benefits someone other than yourself.

2. Happiness Is Pleasure And Joy Is Sacrifice

As previously mentioned, happiness is often a result of pleasure or acquisition of material objects in the world.

For example, if you enjoy eating sushi, you’ll feel happiness when your partner takes you out for sushi.

Joy on the other hand is connected with sacrifice.

For example, putting money aside to give to those in need may mean that you go without buying a new piece of clothing this month you find joy in the sacrifice because you know the money is going to feed the hungry.

3. Happiness Is Accomplished on Earth, Whereas, Joy Is More Of A Connection With God

Whereas we can have happiness on earth, joy is more connected to one’s spiritual journey with the Holy Spirit within you.

The feeling of happiness is based on earthly experiences that you can work towards having, for instance, you can be filled with elation when you finally learn how to drive a car. On the other hand, joy set on a spiritual level such as one’s faith and relationship with God is much more profound and lasting.

4. Happiness is Not Always Good, But Joy Is Always Good

Another key difference between joy and happiness is that happiness can be good or bad, but joy is seen as a spiritual gift.

For instance, a person may be feel a sense of happiness when they are gambling or getting drunk. Yet, such actions can have negative implications on their lives and are essentially not good decisions.

For example, a gambler may end up losing their life’s savings on a bet.

Joy is seen as purely good.

For instance, if you marry someone you love and you experience pure joy, you will be mindful of your actions and ensure that you don’t do anything to damage the relationship such as, gambling away your joint savings or cheating on your partner.

Difference between happiness and joy, happiness joy, Difference Between Joy And Happiness

5. Joy Is In The Heart And Happiness Is On The Face

The thing about happiness is that it’s difficult to hide. IT shows in our outward expression.

When we smile, our eyes become radiant and our countenance is light.

It’s easy to tell if a person is happy by simply looking at their face. The issue is that some people have learned to wear a mask. They hide their unhappiness by smiling, but they are miserable inside.

Joy, on the other hand, comes from within. People may not know that you have inner joy, especially if you are going through difficult circumstances – but you have it.

6. Joy Is An Attitude And Happiness Is A Destination

Take a moment and envision the kind of life that you want in this world.

That dream for your life can become a destination. It may be travelling all over Europe, providing stability for your loved ones, or finally gaining financial freedom.

Whatever your dream is, work on embracing it instead of ignoring it.

Since your dream is essentially what will get you to your destination, understanding it will help you experience extreme happiness along the way and will motivate you to move forward with that dream and plan in mind.

Alternatively, joy is an attitude. It has nothing to do with the final destination or a holiday to Europe because it’s something we choose to cultivate from within.

7. Happiness And Joy Fit Perfectly Together

We often place a lot of emphasis on the idea of being happy. You’ll find a sea of literature with tips on how to be filled with happiness. But the reality is that we won’t ever feel happy unless we learn to practice joy.

Gratitude is one way that we can practice joy. It allows us to feel joy in the little things. For example, having a roof over our heads, having a good relationship with loved ones, a car to get to and from work with, having a job etc.

There are many techniques that you can use to practice gratitude. For example, you can journal on a daily basis. Every morning, you can begin the day by writing down three things that you’re grateful for.

It is often so easy to lose ourselves to the negative experiences and perspectives within life.

But the secret is that if you want to feel happy, it is important to have joy and that starts by learning to appreciate the little things that the world has to offer. The more you practice gratitude, the easier it will be for you to experience joy in your everyday life.

8. We Can’t Always Control Happiness But We Can Control Joy

Life consists of things and situations that are unfortunately beyond our control. However, the best way to live is to learn how to navigate through life so that we don’t lose control.

A study that appeared in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology showed that autonomy, or the idea that your life – its activities and habits are self-chosen and self-endorsed, is the leading contributor of happiness.

Yet, the sad reality is that we get caught up in moments where we feel that if we had “abc” we would be happy or it would result in the outcome that we wanted.

For example, if I had more money I would be able to buy a bigger house and therefore, I would be happy. However, being able to acquire “abc” doesn’t necessarily result in a greater sense of happiness.

All of us experience external factors that are beyond our control.

For example, the death of a loved one. These moments rob us of happiness and even if you had all the money in the world, you can’t bring a loved one back to life. Still, there are ways to find joy even in the darkest and saddest moments of our lives.

When it comes to loved ones passing away, you have the ability to celebrate the memories and moments that you shared with them. These stories keep them alive in your thoughts and those stories come from the love you felt for them. This demonstrates that love, joy, and gratitude are interconnected.

One of the other external circumstances beyond our control is a divorce. Such a difficult time can overwhelm someone and as a result they can even become depressed from it. This is because they are constantly thinking about what they could have done differently versus what they did in the relationship.

Yet, a person can still experience joy even when experiencing such a situation. They can begin by exercising gratitude for what they do have. Whether it be healthy kids or a strong support system.

As a result, they are able to find contentment, peace and joy. If you are going through a situation like divorce, allow yourself to engage in activities that give you pleasure like painting, morning run, or a hot cup of coffee.

9. You Can Feel Joyful And Not Be Happy At The Same Time

What we mean by this is that you can experience joy in an unhappy place.

You may be stuck in a job that’s not your dream job. However, at the end of the day, that job has helped you provide for your family and has imparted skills into you that you will be able to utilize in the future.

Maybe you plan to switch careers, or pursue entrepreneurship in the future. You can still find joy within your present job because you simply see it as a stepping stone to your next opportunity.

For example, you may work for a marketing company and one day dream of owning your own marketing business. You hate that your boss is incredibly demanding, constantly changes his mind and just overall hard to deal with.

Well, you can be joyful with the fact that now is your opportunity to learn everything that you can.

It is also a great time to help as many clients as you are able to, so that when you step out and start your own company, you are not only experienced but you already have people within the industry that know your name and would love to do business with you.

You can feel true joy in an unhappy place because you have the ability to change your mentality and perception about your situation. Instead of saying, “I don’t want to be here,” you can instead look for small things that bring you pleasure.

The truth is that when you realize that your actions play a significant role in your joy, you’ll understand that happiness is simply a destination that keeps you accountable to your goals.

Difference between happiness and joy, happiness joy

10. There Is Joy In Giving

There’s an old saying that goes, “It’s better to give than to receive.” Well, truer words have never been spoken.

A study that surveyed 200,000 adults globally found that people who gave money to charity were happier than those who didn’t-even after taking their financial situations into consideration. One reason for this may be because giving to charity activates a part of the brain associated with pleasure, trust, and social connection.

Even when you choose to give away a little, it can contribute to your happiness. In one study that involved students from British Columbia, the students were given envelopes of money and were required to spend either $5 or $20 on themselves or on others.

By the end of the day, the students who spent the money on others were happier than the students who spent money on themselves because of the greater purpose of giving to others.

Therefore, similar to the practice of gratitude, learning how to give to charity can help you build feelings of happiness and can help you cultivate joy.

Examples of Happiness Versus Joy

As previously mentioned, happiness can be a feeling caused by an event such as a stroke of good luck or fortune, or other pleasures. Whereas, joy is a deeper emotion and personal experience that involves spiritual connection to God or people.

Joy is not always about oneself, as it can be as a result of others’ contentment. Happiness is focused on self-pleasure, whereas joy stems from selfless, soul-satisfying acts.

Let’s look at some examples of happiness when compared to joy.

Let’s say for example, you won a lottery of $100,000. You would be very happy and probably immediately plan on how you’ll use the money. Whether it be to go on holidays, buy a new car, set up a business, pay off debt etc.

However, the issue with happiness is that it is momentary and often a fleeting feeling and the degree of satisfaction is often short-lived.

After you’ve won the lottery and spent all the money, you may find yourself stressed or depressed especially if you mismanaged the funds. Or, let’s say that after the lottery win, you end up losing a loved one. You may find yourself sad even though you won the lottery.

Another example is, you may feel happy in the moment when you have a great meal at a fancy restaurant. However, after that, you may forget what you ate or what the restaurant was called because that moment of happiness was temporary.

But when you selflessly cook a five star worthy meal in your house for your partner’s birthday and your partner absolutely loves it, you may feel joyful and will probably remember that day for a long time.

Joy warms the heart whereas happiness is mere pleasure. This is another one of the differences between joy and happiness.

For example, giving birth to a child may bring joy to someone unlike winning the lottery, which brings happiness.

Antonyms Of Happiness And Joy

You can also understand the difference between joy and happiness by looking at their opposites. For example, the opposite of joy is fear, whereas, the opposite of happiness is unhappiness or misery.

Happiness Is a Choice Quote

Below are some quotes reinforcing that happiness is a choice:

“Happiness is a choice, not a result. Nothing will make you happy until you choose to be happy. No person will make you happy unless you decide to be happy. Your happiness will not come to you. It can only come from you.”

― Ralph Marston

“Being happy doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. It means that you’ve decided to look beyond the imperfections.”

― Gerard Way

“Happiness is not determined by what’s happening around you, but rather what’s happening inside you. Most people depend on others to gain happiness, but the truth is, it always comes from within.”

― John Spence

“Scientifically, happiness is a choice. It is a choice about where your single processor brain will devote its finite resources as you process the world.”

― Shawn Achor

“No one can grant you happiness. Happiness is a choice we all have the power to make.”

― Dean Koontz

“You have to take an active role in making yourself happy. That’s why I say happiness is a choice. Because you have to choose it.”

― Shay Carl

“Happiness is not an end to reach.
It’s not a goal to pursue.
It is a state of being.
so simply be it.”

― Anoir Ou-Chad

Final thoughts

Many people struggle with spotting the key differences between happiness and lasting joy. However, now that you’ve read our article, you’re able to see what it means to be happy versus joyful.

In life it is important to practice joy rather than feeling happiness.

Life has its ups and downs. Change is inevitable, and what better way to embrace change than to have joy? You can start by cultivating gratitude wherever possible, including being grateful for the things that challenge you.

Start by keeping a journal and focus on embracing life’s simple pleasures and experiences. Also, work on your spiritual well being, so that you can cultivate true joy from within.

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