Do you know the difference between happiness and joy? Most of us don’t. We can lead ourselves to believe we aren’t happy because we don’t really understand what happiness is.
We often consider happiness and joy to be one and the same. As a psychotherapist, I’ve observed that clients sometimes feel they’re unhappy because they don’t experience constant joy.
Joy is a euphoric emotion that makes us feel brighter and full of life. You might feel joy when you’re holding a newborn baby, or when you get the job you really wanted. We remember these moments vividly, and if you think about your fondest memories you might find that those were the ones where you felt joy. Although joy is wonderful and uplifting, it isn’t happiness.
I like to distinguish happiness and joy for my clients by explaining that happiness tends to be long-lasting, while joy is fleeting. Happiness is an overall feeling of contentment. It doesn’t mean you experience joy all the time, or that you’re always in a good mood and nothing ever brings you down.
Joy is beautiful and transient. Like other emotions, joy isn’t everlasting. We equate it with happiness because when we’re experiencing joy, we think this is what happiness should feel like. And we confuse it with happiness because it makes us feel mentalhealthdrugs happy in the moment.
So right now, I’d like you to think about your own happiness. Do you feel happy? If your answer is “no,” think about whether you’re content with your life as it is, right now.
You can be content with some qualities of your life and dissatisfied with others. But this doesn’t mean you’re unhappy. Your overall state of mind is what constitutes happiness.
Try to understand that happiness isn’t having a perfect life. We can have very unrealistic expectations about what it means – and what it takes – to live a happy life. In reality, happiness is a state of mind, which is why I so often discuss perception and how we think. I try to help my clients, and you reading this blog, to change negative thought patterns that make you feel unhappy and stuck.
I ask you to take a deep breathe at the end of every day, and practice telling yourself that you’re at peace with your life as it is. Acceptance helps us let go of our racing thoughts and enjoy the moment. It helps us release frustration, guilt, and other feelings that hold us in negative thought patterns. Once you accept your life as it is, which comes with time, you can begin to shape a more positive state of mind.