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A good friend asked me what the difference is between joy and happiness. I pondered on the question and decided to answer it in the form of a blog. I guess the word “happiness” is often used out of context. It is such an easy simple interchangeable word that we might be using it when in fact we mean something else. We often do that in our communication and it might be that we lack other words that actually express what we want to say. Happiness is one of these words.

Let us begin to explore what happiness is. Happiness is a state of well-being. Ed Diener defines happiness as a combination of experiencing overall life satisfaction in conjunction to feeling more positive vs negative emotions. Seligman (the father of positive psychology) notes that happiness is the sum of leading a pleasant, engaged and meaningful life. A life that is free from suffering and is rich with experiencing wellness, joy and prosperity. One can notice that happiness or as the scientists refer to it as subjective well-being is much more than the fleeting smile or carefree moment. Subjective well-being comprises of six pillars which collectively lead to flourishing and achieving one’s optimal.

The six pillars are:

  1. Autonomy (self-confidence)
  2. Environmental mastery
  3. Personal Growth
  4. Positive Relationships
  5. Self-acceptance
  6. Purpose of life

In summary happiness is the psychological, social, emotional and physical dimension of healthy behaviours, actions and thoughts.

Joy is a positive emotion that we feel when our external world and ourself are in alignment. It is our joyous response of delight to a situation. Emotions always require a trigger point to be activated and they are short lived. The word joy has its roots in the Greek Language (chara) means being exceptionally glad about something or someone. According to researcher Barbara Fredrickson, joy is ranked as the positive emotion which we feel when things in our life are doing better than expected. We naturally become playful, creative, light and vibrant.

The emotional ranking mentioned earlier requires some further explanation. Ten positive emotions were identified as being important for our subjective well-being. These emotions have been ranked based on the frequency that we experience them.

The ten emotions in order of importance are:

  1. Love
  2. Joy
  3. Gratitude
  4. Serenity
  5. Interest
  6. Hope
  7. Pride
  8. Amusement
  9. Inspiration
  10. Awe

Love is the highest ranked positive emotion because it automatically encapsulates the other nine emotions. Joy is not far behind love. Joy is an emotion we naturally feel when our life is in a happy state.

Raise your overarching well-being by bringing all six pillars into simultaneous balance and you will instantaneously feel more joy in your life.