The Case for Joy over Happiness

Have you ever thought about the difference between happiness and joy?

Happiness includes many different factors: How we feel about our work, health, relationships, whether we feel like we have a sense of meaning and purpose. All these different factors go into whether or not we think we’re happy. Happiness can sometimes be a little bit vague. You can go through these periods where you’re like, Am I happy? Am I not happy? Some things are good; some things are not so good.

And we process all of that as a whole, on an ongoing basis, to come up with this determination of whether or not we’re happy.⠀

Joy is much simpler and more immediate. Psychologists define joy as an intense momentary experience of positive emotion. Instead of something we measure over time, joy is about feeling good in the moment, and it’s really about these small and simple moments. Fundamentally it's far easier to create more moments of joy, and design joy into our lives, than it is to go about thinking about how to make ourselves happier.

We pursue happiness relentlessly—but we often overlook joy. Research shows that experiencing little moments of joy on a regular basis reduces stress, increases productivity & cognitive flexibility, can speed physical recovery, and may even support longevity. Getting out into nature can be a huge source of joy – there’s significant research showing that being out in nature calms the part of the brain involved in rumination over problems, making us feel literally more carefree.

Just remember what gives you joy and lean into those things, even if they're 'small' things like putting a beautiful plant on your desk or taking a break to connect with your dog. It’s so worth it – the more we care for ourselves each day, the more we protect our longevity and wellbeing.