Joy. The kind of happiness that doesn’t depend on what happens. ~David Steindl-Rast
If you look up the word joy and happiness, they are often used synonymously.
But, are they really the same?
Gratitude guru, Robert Emmons, believes there is a fundamental difference between the two.
When we are happy, says Emmons, it is primarily a result of external experiences. Happiness is also momentary because it is based on events. We feel happy when we get a promotion, do well on an exam, buy that new car, outfit, home or other material item. Happiness is an emotional response to having what we want. This temporary emotional response is fleeting once the outside event has been achieved.
On the other hand, joy comes from within. Feeling joy is independent of external circumstances and events and as such, is long-lasting. Joy can be felt even during unhappy circumstances. For example, when attending a funeral, we can be both sad because of the passing of a person we care about but also filled with joy as we remember what they meant to us, how they supported and cared for us and we them. Joy creates an enduring inner contentment.
According to Emmons, people who practice gratitude are 15 to 25% more joyful than those who are not appreciative. Being grateful cultivates joy and inner contentment. This is because when we are grateful, we don’t need external experiences to fulfill us. Being grateful enables us to take in and receive the good. It creates an awareness of the abundance all around us, even allowing us to find the good in the bad.
It’s perfectly acceptable to want to be happy, and gratitude can help you get there, too. But joy is an ever-present attitude that defies circumstances. Joy is what happens when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are.