Is there a Relationship between Happiness and Joy?

Happiness is subjective. What matters is someone’s perception of happiness. Scientists say this emotion can be studied and measured because people can reliably and honestly self-report their increases and decreases in happiness levels.  Joy is a state of mind, a combination of emotions, and in the spiritual context is localized in our heart. Joy contains elements of contentment, confidence and hope. I am going to be discussing the differences between Joy and Happiness, and ways in which we can receive both in life.

How to Achieve Happiness and Joy

Happiness is a blurred emotion. It can mean different things to many people, and part of a psychologist’s quest is to identify all of the distinctive applications of the word. Most of us will agree that happiness is an emotional state of well-being defined by positive feelings ranging from contentment to intense joy. Those who believe in positive psychology strive to apply research methods to answer questions about what happiness is and how it can be attained. It is well known that happy people are physically and emotionally healthier than unhappy ones. There is evidence suggesting that individuals can increase their level happiness with actions like exercising to release endorphins. It is also well known that various practices have been associated with happiness, such as eating well. Health Psychologists view mood disorders like depression, through a bio-psycho-social model, meaning there is no single cause. Biological, psychological, and social factors all contribute to someone’s emotional state. This model suggests that everyone can benefit, in varying degrees from habits and practices identified by health psychology.

How People Try to Be Happy

by Patrick Hoesly

by Patrick Hoesly

Studies have found that acquiring money, education, a big house or an expensive car do not affect happiness levels as much as we would like or might expect. Many different types of researchers have studied those who win the lottery and have found year after year, that people who have won are no happier than those who did not have this experience. This phenomenon is called hedonistic adaptation and suggest that everyone has a baseline level of the happiness emotion. The effects of happiness are temporary, and people tend to revert to their baseline level after they have received something external or materialistic in nature. These baseline levels of happiness vary and can be attributed in part to genetics as shown by researchers who study the different temperaments of infants. However, there are techniques and behaviors that people can practice to increase the baseline level, and attitudes can be adjusted because challenges along the way can be viewed as being opportunities to learn and grow. Enjoying a high quality of life does not depend as much on money and material comfort as people might believe, because worldly comforts merely fulfill a desire for the temporary feeling of happiness.

How People Try to Be Joyful

by David Hilgart of flickr

by David Hilgart of flickr

Being joyful requires feeling connected to other people in life, with nature, by appreciating the arts, and it requires an acceptance of life, as it is, in the present. Sometimes life does not treat us well, financial devastation, becoming ill, a divorce, developing a chronic illness, becoming disabled, death of a loved one, or adapting to growing older. These transitions or challenges are all aspects of life, and we all will experience them in varying degrees until the day we die. Some believe that joy is a conscious commitment to be happy, to have a sense of contentment for the moment, despite life’s challenges. Joy is an internal lasting emotional condition.

When someone experiences joyfulness, physiological and biochemical alterations occur that encourage a sense of well-being, completely altering the negative views of life. Joy is an attitude or a belief, which soothes even in the most sorrowful of situations. Joy comes from within; it is an internal view.  Joy  in the Biblical context, is not an emotion. It is not based on something positive happening in life, but is an attitude of the heart or spirit.

There is evidence that suggests having a religious belief helps people cope with the stresses and strains of life. Therefore, to answer the question is there a relationship between happiness and joy, in the Biblical sense is no. Happiness is not the emotion that many strive to find and keep, this emotion is joy. No one is happy all of the time, but some are more content and at peace.

Studies on what makes people happy reveal that it does not have much to do with material goods or high achievement. Joy seems to be related to ones’ outlook on life and the quality of relationships, along with having the ability to give and receive. Joy is much more…..

A Few Tips on How to Feel Happiness and Joy

by Chris Bastian

by Chris Bastian

  1. Choosing to Smile and consciously deciding to have a good day induces endorphins and other uplifting chemicals in the brain. Nothing can dampen your mood when you know the techniques involving how to bring on joy. Everyone can indeed develop inner joy. Using these techniques can bring on temporary happiness, however practice frequently throughout the day and on a daily basis will increase that baseline happiness level and bring about the more consistent feeling of Joy.
  2. Meditation and Imagining that you have received something you wish for will improve happiness which is of short duration. However, it is important to avoid mixing this fantasy with reality. Imagining or wishing you had something is very temporary. With practice, meditation and becoming mindful in the spiritual sense will bring about lasting joy.
  3. Positive Thinking or making it your goal to think positive often brings happiness to the surface quickly. Adopting a positive attitude can indeed improve the mood and bring on temporary happiness. Regardless of the problem, situation, or circumstance, people do get to choose whether they want to feel happy and joyful, or depressed and sad. The key is to practice this technique and make it a daily goal. Practice recognizing the simple delights in life.
  4. Feeling Grateful about what you do have is a deeper emotion and consciously practicing or focusing on what you have in life will increase that baseline level and bring on the lasting feeling of joy. Feeling grateful for your health, employment, family, friends, home, etc., basically makes people feel content.
  5. Notice Immediate Surroundings Stop and become aware of the positive aspects of your life. Most will find plenty of evidence that happiness is sometimes hidden in many areas, people just have to be aware.  Consistently stopping and noticing the positive pieces of the immediate surroundings will consistently increase awareness and increase that baseline level to feel consistent joy. Stop….Ask yourself, “What is pleasurable about this moment”?
  6. Become Active and Support a cause that you really believe is worthy. Or become active on a smaller scale by practicing random acts of kindness. Helping others increases the endorphin like chemicals in the brain.  Becoming active in a cause helps people feel in control or empowered, especially when facing a difficult life challenge.
Is There a Relationship Between Happiness and Joy? 

Yes and No.  Joy is something that lasts. Happiness is something that is temporary.  Joy is an inner, conscious belief.  Happiness is external. Something people may feel for a short time, for example, when they buy something that they desire. Joy brings with it a feeling of contentment when someone is in the middle of a life storm. Happiness is not present in a life storm. A persons genetic baseline level of happiness is fixed on the personality style in which they were born and can increase over time. People can receive the internal feeling consistent joy by practicing the behaviors and techniques.

Strive to feel the consistency of joy, and, of course have a little happiness in your life today!

Live Well

© Dr. Cheryl MacDonald

The book, Health Psychology for Everyday Life.

Cover Image: canstockphoto|painless

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Health Psychology

Cheryl MacDonald, Psy’D.
Health Psychology of San Diego

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