A recent conversation with a dear friend really broke my heart. This warm and generous person, who has been my friend since childhood, has always been upbeat, energetic and joyful. She is the last person I would expect to feel down — but she did.
Before I share this story, note that I wrote “did,” as in the past tense.
Talking with my friend, she shared with me that she didn’t know how to really feel joy anymore — her exact words were “I feel happy overall, but I don’t know if I still feel joy.” I was floored, because she has always oozed positivity! As we talked for the next couple of hours, we realized that while she seemed happy overall, she no longer knew what things, thoughts or experiences should stir joy within her — in essence, she forgot what it really means to truly feel awe inspiring joy.
Happiness vs. Joy
Happiness and joy are not really the same thing, which is a bit confusing.
Happiness is subjective in the sense that what really matters, is a person’s perception of happiness — what makes you happy, may not make someone else happy.
Research in the field of positive psychology and happiness often define a happy person as someone who experiences frequent positive emotions, such as joy, interest, and pride, and infrequent (though not absent) negative emotions, such as sadness, anxiety and anger. Happiness has also been said to relate to life satisfaction, appreciation of life, moments of pleasure, but overall it has to do with the positive experience of emotions. – Psychology Today
Joy on the other hand
Joy is a state of mind and an orientation of the heart. It is a settled state of contentment, confidence and hope. It is something or someone that provides a source of happiness. (source: Theopedia)
Joy is actually more of a feeling of being whole and complete and experiencing an ecstatic, sustainable passion — joy gives you that elated, almost tingly sensation.
Confused? Join the club.
As it related to my friend, it took some time to get to the heart of the matter. As I said, she still felt kinda happy, but she wasn’t feeling that deep-down, blissful joy — that intense, ecstatic and exuberant feeling of awe and jubilation. And, that loss of deep inspiration is something that can happen even to the happiest of people.
When we allow ourselves to get caught up in the daily rat race and we start to merely exist in our lives, we end up just going through the motions. We may have a feeling of being happy, but without noticing, we stop having that genuine, passionate feeling of joy. We go about our day, running here, racing there and life isn’t lived, as much as it’s just the passage of time.
If our lives become mundane and devoid of authentic enthusiasm, it eventually catches up to us and we have that dreaded “where is my life going?” moment — and while that question can be beneficial at times, when it jumps out at us, it means we haven’t been fully engaged in life.
We’re spiritual and physical beings — as our bodies need food for sustenance, so too do our souls require nourishment. True joy is something you feel deep within you — it’s in your heart and soul and it literally makes you feel so vibrant and alive, that it’s electrifying. Without joy, despite feeling happy, we can have that barren feeling that stems from a loss of true awe and wonderment.
And, this is precisely what happened to my friend. Through talking it out, she realized that she began to meander through life and not truly live it the way she needs to. Work began to take up more of her time, she said yes to every play-date and activity her kids wanted, and yes when the school asked her to organize yet another bake sale. Most of her time was spent in the service of other people’s needs and in short she got burned out and realized that while she is happy overall, that motivating and inspiring joy went missing.
Are you living life to the fullest, or merely existing? Having joy in our lives is vital and when we sort of feel happy, but don’t have genuine joyfulness, it’s time to evaluate where we are and where we need to be.
How do you feel joy?
Joy comes from within and isn’t really an emotion – it’s more of an attitude within your heart and soul. Joy is an exhilaration, an elation and feeling of euphoria. If you have it, you know…if you used to have it and have now lost it, you know. How we get it back depends on our unique spirits. For my friend, she stopped just meandering through life and returned to a focus on the things that sustain her with a true sense of jubilation, and that means she is now again nourishing her soul and not just her physical life.
Here are some insightful points to ponder further:
“Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.” ― Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
“Joy is to fun what the deep sea is to a puddle. It’s a feeling inside that can hardly be contained.” ― Terry Pratchett
“The joyful heart sees and reads the world with a sense of freedom and graciousness.” ― John O’Donohue