One of my friends is starting a business that’s all about finding joy on a weekly basis. She told me about it and I thought it was a fantastic idea. Then she asked me what I do to bring joy into my life and I was suddenly stumped. I couldn’t think of one single thing that brings me joy that I do every week.
I asked her what the difference is between joy and happiness. She said that joy is something that you experience on a day-to-day basis, while happiness is a general feeling in your life.
I was still stumped. I thought about it for a while and couldn’t decide if I just couldn’t think of anything or if there was really no joy in my life.
The pursuit of happiness
I think we can all agree that we need more happiness in our lives. Very few people say that they are happy consistently. It’s something that everyone is searching for, that they want more of. Yet, like joy, we are most likely to say we don’t know what brings us happiness.
I’m really good at listing what makes me unhappy. I don’t like my day job, hate how much I weigh, don’t like my small apartment, don’t like my economical car, don’t like that my money is spent before I get it… the list goes on and on.
It’s easy to think that the opposite of the things that we hate would be the things that make us happy. Right?
Rainn Wilson, who played Dwight on The Office, was on a podcast recently called Don’t Keep Your Day Job. He spoke about a happiness study that was done at a university. They asked people what would make them happy and most listed things like what I said - more money, a bigger house, a nicer car.
During the study, they were given these things for a week. At the end of the week, they were asked a series of questions to see if they were happier. The general result was no, they weren’t any happier.
The next week, the researchers told them to find someone to help this week, do something nice for someone or help them in some way. At the end of the week, they were again asked a series of questions to see if they were happier and the general result was yes, they felt a great deal of happiness just from doing something simple to help someone else.
It’s not happiness you’re looking for
So many times when we talk about things like happiness or joy we look for the really big, difficult answer. Our problems are big and difficult. We feel so unhappy that it feels unsurmountable. But what if the answer isn’t something big and difficult? What if it’s something easy and simple?
Cathy Heller is one of my favorite podcasters. She talks about a lot of the things that I worry about, like happiness and purpose and doing things that you love every day. She’s constantly saying, “The opposite of depression is not happiness, it’s purpose.” What that means is that you may be unhappy in your small apartment, but a bigger apartment won’t bring you happiness. You might hate your day job, but a new job won’t solve your problems. Maybe the reason you hate your job is because you dislike the type of work you’re doing.
Are you helping anyone?
In my day job, I work for a technology company in digital marketing. I don’t use the computer program that we sell and I don’t really like it that much. I don’t feel like it helps anyone, though I know from our customers that it does help them with their work. Mostly I feel like I don’t make a difference in the world, that no one would be upset (at least for too long) if I didn’t go to work. They’d simply hire someone else to do the same thing.
In true INFJ fashion, I want to change the world. I want to make a big impact. When I feel like I’m doing that I feel joy in the moment and an overarching sense of happiness. I feel like my life is moving in the right direction and I know what I’m supposed to be using my time on Earth for.
The joy comes when people send me messages like these:
It’s happiness, because I know I’m living my purpose, and joy, because in the moment I’m feel good about the impact that I have made on this person’s life.
What brings you joy?
Not everyone experiences joy from the same things. My friend, who’s starting this business, said that she buys herself flowers every week and she makes self-care a priority. Getting her hair done and taking pilates classes bring her joy in the moment.
Aside from my work, coffee brings me joy in the mornings. Learning brings me a sense of joy and contentment. I love to read anything about self-growth. Feeling like I’m getting better or making improvements brings me joy too. I love to travel, so any time I can take a trip, even just a day trip somewhere and see something new, I feel joy.
What brings you joy? This week I challenge you to think of 5-10 things that bring you joy in the moment, things that you can do on a weekly or monthly basis that will make your day and your like happier and better.