What is The Difference Between Happiness and Joy?

“There’s a difference between happiness and joy. It’s valuable to be aware of this because when things get tough, logic might want you to default to despair, or utter sadness or worse, you might think you have to choose between hardship and joy, or support and separation, or light and dark.”~Danielle LaPorte

For some time, I have been struggling to understand the difference between happiness and joy. The words are so closely related. In fact, each term is used in the dictionary definition of the other. Each article I read has a little bit different twist on what each word means. Many suggest happiness stems from external influences and joy from internal.

I put some thought into what has recently made me happy. The completion of a story that took nearly two months to write. Arriving home safely after a snowy and slippery commute (multiple times this year- live in Minnesota). Being greeted by my loving cats after arriving home from a long day at work. Having the opportunity to relax and enjoy a glass of my favorite wine. Having a chance to share a meal and a conversation with a dear friend.

Then I thought about how I feel or respond when I’m happy?

I feel energized, excited, content, satisfied, and sometimes relieved. Sometimes when I am extremely happy, I jump up and down and smile so big my cheeks hurt!

Then one day I had an epiphany…

What Is The Difference Between Happiness and Joy?

I learned about a local non-profit that has volunteers visit a senior citizen in his/her home the week before Thanksgiving and bring them pumpkin pie.

The pumpkin pies are purchased= or made, and then donated by volunteers. I enjoy baking and work part-time at a group home caring for two young disabled adults who have baking goals, so we committed to make and donate 3 pumpkin pies. The girls were very excited to have the opportunity to do something nice for others.

I delivered the pies the following day and told the non-profit about my helpers, and the great experience they had. They were so grateful to the girls that they took down their contact information so a thank you card could be sent.

Suddenly, I was overcome with the most wonderful of sensations. In the core of my body, slightly below my ribs, I was suddenly filled with warmth and a feeling of tranquility, which rose up and surrounded my heart and radiated throughout my body. I was so excited that the girls were going to be acknowledged for their participation.

What was this incredible feeling?

It wasn’t butterflies. It was the feeling of JOY!

A few days later, I escorted my autistic daughter to a craft class where they were making fall leaf placemats. As we entered the building a woman at the registration table commented on how cute the placemats were, and how she wished she could make a set. My daughter made two placemats and then asked me if she could give them to the woman at the front table. (Now, if you know anything about autistic individuals, compassion oftentimes eludes them.) I was nearly in tears, again that wonderful sensation – that feeling of joy touched my very soul.

The conclusion I have reached is that happiness is a mindset, a feeling of satisfaction, a feeling of fulfillment, a feeling of contentment, and an appreciation of life, which can come from accomplishing a goal, enjoying someone’s company, feeling secure, feeling grateful, and feeling loved –  just to mention a few causes.

Joy, on the other hand, is experienced when we bear witness to an exchange of kindness or we ourselves extend one, thus connecting with others in a spiritual manner. That’s the difference between happiness and joy.

May you be blessed with much happiness and joy every single day of your life, and share it with everyone you come into contact with.

The world needs more of both!


Dottie Woodruff

Dottie is on a continuous journey of self-exploration, personal growth, and spiritual development. She believes we are all here to help and learn from each other. She is hoping that others will benefit from her knowledge, experience, and research as she crafts it into words. Dottie can be reached via email at dottie.woodruff@yahoo.com or href="https://www.facebook.com/dot.tie.165">Facebook.

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