J is for Joy

From the outside Happiness and Joy look a lot alike - but they're different

From the outside Happiness and Joy look a lot alike - but they're different

Happiness and Joy—from the outside they look a lot alike, but they’re different.

Happiness is a feeling. It goes up and down—fluctuates—based on external circumstances. It’s temporary, fleeting at best. For instance, we check the mailbox and find a notice from the IRS that states we owe a considerable sum in back taxes. For most people our happiness level would plunge. On the flip side, we check the mailbox and find an unexpected refund check from the IRS—it could be in any amount—and our happiness level soars.

Happiness can also be a result of manufactured merriment such as going to the circus, watching a funny movie, attending a birthday party.

When our perspective is governed from the inside out, the external pressures fall away and we experience joy.

Joy is a state of being. It’s inexplicable peace. Joy is internal and when nurtured and encouraged, it becomes resident—abiding—regardless of external circumstances.

Cultivating and maintaining joy eases the struggle that exists along life’s path. Joy leads to grace, the immediate presence of Divine Love.

The life of Viktor Frankl—Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist, and Holocaust survivor—is a perfect example of someone with inexplicable peace. He was a joy-filled person even though he was confined by the narrow boundaries of a concentration camp.

Another, more recent example is the many people who lost their homes in Hurricane Katrina. There were few whose happiness didn’t plummet. However, there were some who suffered tremendous personal devastation, yet still retained a state of joy—inexplicable peace that defies explanation.

Through which lens do you view life—external happiness, or internal joy?

Listen with your heart,

Laurie Buchanan

Whatever you are not changing, you are choosing.”
               – Laurie Buchanan


© 2010 Laurie Buchanan – All Rights Reserved

38 thoughts on “J is for Joy

  1. Just so I not counted out of this class, I am saying Here!

    I am very aware of this class, I think I took it before, Oh I know it is part of the Life Harmony program !

    Joy and happiness is all about how one reacts or responds to a situation, whether we see the silver lining or walk under the dark cloud!

    I am Love, Jeff

    • Jeff – Good morning. I see you there with your big smile. Yep, you are definitely present and accounted for. Yes – in the Life Harmony program I definitely like to make a clear distinction between happiness and joy, and you get an A+ for remembering that 🙂

  2. Gotta say Happiness is me. I find happiness in things I do. So I have a big swing to my happiness factor unfortunately…

    I’m currently reading a book called The Myth of Stress (where stress REALLY comes from and how to live a happier and healthier life).

    It has a chart of countries. It relates their happiness to wealth. While the comforts of life and having health do make us happier, the information indicates that being rich does not make a person happier. The chart is on page 3 of this PDF.


    Today? I’m happy. Got a job to go to, my belly is full from oatmeal, I got lots of yardwork, cleaning and organizing done yesterday, and spent time with many of my friends old and new this weekend. Splendid!!!

    • Good morning Beth – Thank you for the .Pdf. The book sounds similar to “The Geography of Bliss” by Eric Weiner. Money and happiness are not linked – in fact, there are many people with boatloads of money that are miserable.

      The reason I beat the drum so hard on distinguishing the difference between happiness and joy is that so many people are held hostage by the externals (happiness) and those are in constant fluctuation. In other words, you can’t rely on them to remain steady. That’s why (in my perspective) joy is vital – it’s internal, a state of being (as opposed to a feeling that vascillates).

  3. Hello dear…I must say joy must be a balance of internal and external…ironically, last night I was watching The Bucket List and it was a great reminder of finding joy in your life before it’s too late. 🙂

    What an amazing little spiritual reminder…

    Find some joy today lady! 😉


    • CatMan – I sure enjoyed watching the moving, The Bucket List! I will definitely have a joyful day. I never have to worry about finding it because it resides in me wherever I go 🙂

  4. Under current financial circumstances, externally I could be on the lower level of happiness. However, internally I am at peace and joyful as I remember the many blessings in my life. God is awesome and I walk through my life with His son, Jesus and that fills me with peace.

    This is a grea topic for this time of year which fills many with sadness and a feeling of being alone.

    • Ann – You’re right, there are many blessings in our lives. In my experience when I’m under a dark cloud, I always look for — and find — the silver lining. I’m glad for your visit today, thank you for stopping by.

  5. Through which lens do you view life—external happiness, or internal joy?
    Is it possible to have one foot in each pool of joy?
    Because sometimes external things make me happy. I think it’s okay to love material things, because I have read matter is pure energy and spirit.
    But than every morning I sit in meditation and reflect on giving everything love and being grateful for what I receive and thankful for what I’m about to receive.
    I once had my heart and solorplex opened with “Joy” essence oil. Seemed I didn’t have enough “Joy” in my spirit.
    So here I am back to learn another lesson.
    Joyfully learning,

    • Jean – You asked, “Is it possible to have one foot in each pool?” I think that happiness and joy shake hands on a regular basis. My perspective is just that happiness is more of a fickle friend, while joy is steadfast. I’m so glad you popped in for a visit today.

  6. Laurie,I kind of knew that Joy was coming and I was ready for it!
    I thinkJoy is something no one can take away from you ,except may be a fall in hormones.I also feel that Joy is what allows us to care about the world–Happiness is local and Joy is global,perhaps.In other words happiness sometimes may blind one momentarily but Joy opens our eyes and heart.

    • Roamer – You knew in advance that I was going to write about JOY – there’s that great intuition of your at work again! I absolutely love the distinction you made here: Happiness is local, while joy is global. And that happiness may sometimes blind a person momentarily, but joy opens our eyes and heart. I definitely resonate with your observations and I’m so glad you shared them here.

  7. “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart, down in my heart to stay!” I try every day to find small, simple instances of joy to tuck away in my heart’s memory so that on those days that happiness seems elusive, I can pull out a ‘splash of joy’ and energize myself again.

    • Cindy Lou – What a great practice you have: tuck away joys in your heart so you can pull out a splash of joy and energize yourself again. I love it! Thank you for sharing this healthful regimen with us.

  8. Hi Laurie

    My objective is joy, and I seem to manage it most of the time, and sometimes happiness and it’s compliment overwhelm.

    Interesting that the last three books I have read are Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning”, Jared Diamond’s “Guns, germs and Steel”, and Lance Armstrong’s “It’s not about the bike”.
    Currently I have two on the go “The rise and fall of the Third Chimpanzee” (another of Jared Diamond’s) and Roger Penrose’s “The Emperor’s New Mind”.

    Huia is 3 years old today, and Ailsa is Facebook chatting with Jewelia – who is in Thomasville South Georgia at present.

    Having read Frankl, I don’t believe it is true to say that he experienced joy in the concentration camps, and he seemed to experience moments of it. What he did do, which kept him alive, was hold on to purpose and meaning of his choice.

    Reading Armstrong, and his fight with cancer, and journey through chemo therapy, as well as the path to competitive cycling was also fascinating. His description of riding a bike as being a battle with pain, and a determination to beat it, matches my own. When I was doing a lot of riding, after a 4 or fives hours on a hard training ride there was only the pain, and the determination not to let it beat me, to keep going, even if I could only imagine keeping going for an inch, I would travel that inch, and then the next one, ……

    The joy was there in the times that the pain eased, and sometimes even in the knowing that i could experience the pain, and was still breathing.

    Had planned to get back out on the bike this morning, but have been chatting to Jewelia for an hour. Dishes are to be done, Ailsa has requests for weed eating and some tree pruning. Once client needs an update to modify debtors system, another is waiting for a GPS based recording system for his vessels.

    Better get to it – Jewelz just stopped chatting.
    What a joy to be so wanted!

    • Ted – You’re a reading machine! Happy birthday to Huia. I’m so glad that Jewelia is having a complete and total blast – she’ll remember this adventure for the rest of her life.

      I, too, have read lots of Frankl and we clearly read through different lenses. I suspect it’s “the eye of the beholder” thing again. My perspective is that he experienced joy (again, my definition of joy being inexplicable peace).

      I haven’t read Lance Armstrong’s book, “It’s Not About the Bike” yet, but based on your description, I just placed it on my must-read list. Thank you.

      Dishes, weed-eating, pruning, and client work — Whew! You’re definitely not one to let any grass grow under your feet.

      • Hi Laurie

        On reading Frankl, it was clear to me that he certainly had some moments of peace while in the camps, and a lot more and more regularly since leaving them; and yet for most of the time he was in the camps, he seems to have been as susceptible to happiness and sadness as most others; and he always had a little “something extra” in reserve, and he didn’t bring it out on a regular basis (just too dangerous – it would be to invite attacks and beatings – he had to be seen to be really suffering to escape the worst of the beatings, and he did).

        Don’t get me wrong, I have enormous respect and admiration for all that he did and accomplished. Amazing man.
        And I don’t think he would say that joy was present very often in the camps.

        I passed on you greetings to Huia, she looked up and wagged her tail 😉
        Dishes are done, one lot of client work complete – will get into the chainsaw and weed-eater department this evening.

        We’ve decided that I will cycle (while Huia runs) down to the South Bay beach for her to have a swim as a birthday treat.

      • Ted – (shhhhh, don’t tell anyone, but I’m hiding out right now setting up some draft versions of up-and-coming posts)…

        I think you just hit the nail on the head when you said, “…he [Frankl] always had a little ‘something extra’ in reserve…” We’re in full agreement on that. And you’re right about not being able to whip that out (joy) and wave it like a flag on a regular basis because he would, indeed, have been attacked and beaten. Like you, I believe on an overall basis, there was very, very little joy in the camps; moments of fleeting happiness maybe, but very little joy.

        Enjoy your bike ride – I know that Huia will enjoy her swim.

    • Hi, Ted. I was absolutely transformed after I read “Man’s Search for Meaning.” Frankl kept talking about making meaning out of the most dreadful circumstances and kept asking the question: “how will you respond to this?” That brought me to the question in myself: “WHO in me is going to respond to life?” Thus, my passion for bringing my true presence to life.

      • Hi Barbara,

        I had encountered the same logical question, a logically equivalent “view” of being, prior to encountering Frankl, and it is extremely powerful, in whatever context one first encounters it, believes it, then chooses it.

        I tend to dislike using terms like “True” and “False” except in very constrained contexts of logic. When dealing with reality, I prefer to use terms which imply more of a sense of some current position on one or more infinite spectra. So rather than referring to “true presence” I am more likely to refer to my highest currently available awareness, in harmony with my deepest levels of intuition, and everything in between.

  9. Reading this Journal… brings me pure joy! I am going to catch up as I know that when we get to Z… you are weaving heartprints each time. Smiling as I read all of the comments…

  10. Hi, Laurie — I feel I understand your description of joy as an internal state, a way of being in the world that is an undisturbed pool of peace. One may not be happy, but a person who has this joy can always go to that solid place within himself or herself and know that he or she is okay no matter what is going on around them. I feel it is where my true presence resides and sometimes I can arrive there and connect for a pace or two (until life distracts me again!). I will be writing a little more about joy, too, in the next couple of days as I have rewritten my mantra so that I joyfully embrace and nurture my true presence each day (and that is how I bring my presence to life).

    • Barbara – I really like the word picture you painted, “…an undisturbed pool of peace.” I look forward to your up-and-coming posts on joy. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

  11. “Joy is a state of being. It’s inexplicable peace. Joy is internal and when nurtured and encouraged, it becomes resident—abiding—regardless of external circumstances…”

    Lovely delineation here, and a clear distinction between both outlooks. Happiness is indeed a transient emotion, though some of bless with such favorable circumstances and good fortune to sustain this bright view for a very long time. I like the example you provide there with the IRS reminder and the unforeseen check, as in this society financial well-being is perhaps a bit more dominant than it has any right to be. But it’s a fact.

    Joy does indeed persevere, when a person does find that inner peace. Certainly this time of the year provides for the right underpinning to embrace it, nurture it, and allow it to become the overriding force in our lives.

    • Sam – You hit the nail on the head when you said, “…when a person does find that inner peace.” That inner peace is key — vital, in fact! I’m glad you stopped by.

      Joyous holidays to you and yours as well.

  12. What a joy to be able to sit and read how others experience their joy. I’m sure there are as many ways and definitions of joy as there are people to express them. Joy is my everyday life, I get joy from breathing, walking, seeing, connecting…being. For awhile there, I was afraid that I would not BE much longer. So while the fear has eroded and is not totally gone, I find that I have much more space to be filled with joy. Happiness is the barometer of my days and journey, some high, some low, all good!

  13. I’m back! Time to catch up with the class. I find internal JOY to be my (our human) natural state. That is why when we are born we appear to experience sheer joy quite often during our early development. Then we become tricked by our circumstances, society, the news, our ego and many times only experience happiness when the external events dictate. I am optimistic and believe I experience joy each day upon awakening with the knowing that I am still here to experience something new.

    • Lisa – You are, indeed, optimistic! I love your statement, “I find internal JOY to be my (our human) natural state.” That’s a wonderful observation. Have a great weekend!

  14. Pingback: Catchup Blog 2nd December | Ted Howard NZ's Blog

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