As I began to talk with people about joy, I noticed that people didn’t seem to have a distinction between happiness and joy. Are joy and happiness synonyms or is there a difference? Are they emotions? States of being? Which lasts longer? How do they feel different?
I decided to look up the actual definition of joy. The definition seems to imply that joy is an uber state of happiness. Ecstatic, exultant, elation were some of the words associated with joy. So if happiness is an 8, is joy a 10?
I wanted to put my finger on exactly what joy was, but I wasn’t sure I would find the answer in an encyclopedia. So I looked to art because the artist’s role is to give form to those elusive experiences of humanity.
“A joyous feeling shot up, like the grass in spring.” Ivan Turgenev
“Joy careens and smashes through them like a speeding car out of control.” -Irving Feldman
“Joy…felt it rumbling within him like a subterranean river.” -Andre Malraux
“Joy is leaping within me…like a trout in a brook.” -George Garrett
“Joy rises in me like a summer morn.” -George Garrett
“Rose and fell, like a floating swimmer, on easygoing great waves of voluptuous joy.” -Christina Stead
“Their joys…ran into each other like water paints mingling to form delicate new colors.” -Sumner Locke Elliott
What movement! So joy, perhaps, is movement. It is a swell within the body. I pondered that a bit. If joy is movement, how does that compare to how I experience the feeling of happiness? For me, happiness feels more like something that radiates. Happiness has a longer half-life, but the effects of joy are more extreme.
I decided to ask others about their distinctions around joy and happiness. Those will come in a future post. For now, think about your distinctions: