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Misconceptions: Happiness is not Joy
Everybody wants to be "happy." But do we know what happiness is or how to achieve it? The path to happiness is a unique journey. After all, one's happiness is not the same for another. Our culture, diversities, life experiences, including social media influences, have shaped our perspective on what happiness is and how it can be achieved. Many have experienced happiness in their life, some more than others, but it's not typically consistent. So what's the point here, you may already be asking yourself. Well, you will find many have written on this topic because the "truth" is, despite many have achieved happiness it doesn't last, leaving many to feel empty, depleted, alone, or bored; therefore, chasing the next thing to get that feeling again, which is the result of increased endorphins. So why is this an important topic? For the sake of long term wellness, there may be a better way to invest your time and efforts, and that's developing joy and understanding its difference from happiness, as they are sometimes used interchangeably, yet they are not the same.
I'd like to propose that its not necessarily happiness that people should seek but instead joy. So let's explore the differences between happiness and joy. To be happy is a momentary emotion, which can come and go as opposed to joy; its something you have, which is more of a state of being not as easily shaken by external variables. As noted earlier, when happiness is experienced, given the spike of endorphins when experiencing something enjoyable like vacations, gifts, and having some fun with loved ones, are all great, of course, but temporary. Unlike happiness, joy is cultivated from within; its more than a mood, but instead, the person is "right" with themselves and the world. There is a sense of meaning and contentment. You see, when possess joy, you can potentially experience more moments of happiness, but it's not necessarily reciprocal, meaning you can be in this moment, happy doing x, y or z, but not having a sense of joy, which you don't even think about twice. Why would you? You don't know the difference; because in your life, if you are lucky you have several "happy" moments, the issue comes in when you have less of those or rather in the moments when not happy then what? If you have a sense of joy, you can get through the moments of not feeling happy and be okay. You see, we are not dealing here with polar opposites. You can be sad and still have joy in your life, and that's what gets you through because your frame of reference or rather essences knows better.
Joy lasts longer; it can be or rather is a way of living. The Costa Rican's got it right, as they are known for their philosophical ways, "Pure Vida." Translation, living the good life or true life or authentic life. So how does one live a life more fulfilled with joy and not so concerned with happiness per se, especially if their sense of "happiness" is limited to artificial external things? Well, perhaps before embarking on a journey in seeking joy, the traveler should identify what they are truly seeking and realize maybe the journey itself is where what they seek or rather need lies, which begins within oneself. Now recall from earlier you don't actually "seek" joy, but instead, you cultivate it. So what does that mean anyway? Well, simply put you develop it, which in this case refers to the person's character (thoughts/beliefs/morals). In this process of cultivating, it won't be based on one thing, but instead perhaps several developing new habits, choices, and lifestyle that nurtures the well-being. And you may now wonder, what well-being is; well simply put it the wellness of the self, which you can point out well wouldn't that be subjective in what one considers makes them feel "well." And the answer would be well yes, it's tricky because again beliefs on what is right and wrong, good and bad, "healthy" and "ill," is based on the current cultural climate people are living in (DSM, Government and Private sectors alike, etc.). But the key here is that joy brings an inner peace that forms a certain way of perceiving realities, which affects emotional regulations, and respectively actions more in line with nurturing, empathy, compassion, and gratitude for self and others.
You see, joy is not selfish. Now, I want to acknowledge that a person with joy is not a "pure" "sin-less" person that does not experience sadness, anger, or grief, as these are all human feelings that all will experience at some point. A person who has joy can experience all these feelings and perhaps more, but these are temporary, as they don't remain stuck. They are more so resilient, as they would revert to remembering what is important instead. No emotion is "bad"; they serve a purpose; they are saying something about that person's state of being. So, given what has been said here, it would be imperative to learn from an early age the power and connection of thoughts/beliefs, emotions, and behaviors by developing mindfulness and EI/EQ (Emotional Intelligence).
In the mean time here are some simply tips in working towards joy:
- Practice gratitude
- Live your authentic self
- Find/Identify your purpose
- Stop comparing yourself
- Practice self-compassion
- Practice mindfulness
- Be of services to others
- Surround yourself with empowering people
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