Beth Osmer

What is the Difference Between Happiness and Joy?

happiness; joy; healing

Do you consider yourself a happy person, or a person with joy? Maybe you don’t even consider that there’s a difference between the two. When being asked if there is a difference between happiness and joy, the short answer is yes. These two terms are often used interchangeably because both are emotions where a person has feelings of contentment of satisfaction. That is why it is so important to be aware of the difference between these two when things get tough.

What is happiness?

Happiness is an emotion that results from a state of well-being or positive experiences. It cannot hold the same spaces as anger or sadness. That is why people will look for an outlet to provide short-term happiness such as drugs, alcohol or addictive foods when they are in moments of despair and darkness. The problem with this type of thinking is that happiness is just that, short-term. Happiness is fleeting. It is an emotion that passes through that can last for a moment or weeks. Often, happiness is experiential, which is why so many chase experiences that might bring them happiness. Another way to phrase this is that happiness is based on “happenings,” which implies that if things are going well, you’re happy, but if something bad happens then, you will not continue to be satisfied.

What is joy?

Joy is a stronger, but less common emotion than happiness. Joy isn’t confined to fleeting experiences but is a state of being or the essence of your soul. Because joy is so foundational to your state of being, emotions and experiences can rest on top of it. In other words, joy can be experienced in the midst of chaos or difficult seasons. Having joy is a way of looking at the world and having peace with one’s own life and experiences. You can be pulled through the darkest moments in life and still have joy, although, joy can often be much hard to obtain than happiness.


All of this information might leave you wondering, what are the real-life benefits of pursuing joy? Asking this question is common because the journey to living a joyful life is sometimes challenging, especially if you are accustomed to the fleeting pleasure of happiness. Here are some of the lasting benefits of joy that are not possible through living by happiness alone:

  • You’ll build stronger, healthier relationships.
  • Stress will be reduced in your daily life.
  • You will be able to cope and process through trauma in a healthier way.

Living in joy frees you to live in a way that is better for you, your relationships and your health. Don’t let old patterns keep you from living a full, rich life. Lean into joy and start the journey of writing a new story.

Am I happy or joyful?

Considering that happiness and joy are so similar as a felt emotion, it is difficult to know if you are living in a state of happiness or joyfulness. If some of these questions resonate with you, then it might be time for you to evaluate the foundation you are living on.

  1. Do you find that you are grounded in joy, or subject to the unpredictability of experiencing happiness?
  2. Do your emotions quickly change?
  3. Can you associate the warmth you’re experiencing with a specific event or relationship in your life?

You might be mistaking what you perceived as joyfulness as temporarily experiencing happiness if you struggle to maintain positivity or peace. The danger of this situation is that you might start to rely on the people in your life or the good things you have to maintain your peace and happiness. Although it is not wrong to desire strong relationships and good things, wrongly prioritizing these things in your life can quickly take you down a path of helplessness and dependency. This is why it is so important to recognize and pursue joy.

How do I pursue lasting joy?

You are at the beginning of the story. As you learn more about these topics, feel empowered to know you are in control of your destiny and how you perceive the events of your life. Accept happiness in the places it belongs and opens your soul to joy. It might take time before you can experience inner peace, but the fullest life is possible for you. Here are some simple steps you can take that will help you on the journey.

  • Quiet your mind with meditation
  • Cut down on social media
  • Practice gratitude
  • Share your thoughts and emotions openly with a therapist

Don’t buy into the lie that if you are not living in a state of happiness something is wrong with your life. Pursuing joy opens you up to endless possibilities and a state of calm in the midst of a range of emotions. To start your journey toward joyfulness, schedule your complimentary 30-minute phone consultation today! I would love to walk on this journey with you.