Discovering the difference between happiness and joy is not about seeing one as better than the other, but instead, realizing theyre just different. Being happy as a result of good circumstances taking place is natural; however, we cant rely on having good circumstances all the time. Its not realistic. Happiness is not an emotion that we learn; we automatically get it. Joy, on the other hand, is an emotion that can predominantly rule our daily lives. We must develop and teach ourselves joy, much like the process of getting physically fit.
When I was 14, I remember so clearly how I determined I was to do whatever was necessary to find happiness. After 20 years of experiencing better cars, bigger houses and more adventures, I finally admitted to myself that the temporary high of happiness was like smoking marijuana: the highs are great at the beginning, but the longer you smoke it, the more the thrill diminishesto the point where it becomes an addiction.
Joy is a powerful emotion and the opposite of fear, our second most influential emotion. My observation is that these two emotions are in a constant battle, and when joy loses to fear, we tend to settle for sporadic happy highs, which can also become an addictive behavior pattern.
Since I have been teaching myself how to be more joyful, I have starting observing joyful people. They seem to have many commonalities. They are in good health. They value discipline and strong relationships. Theyre appreciative and thankful, and they dont allow themselves to have spiking happy highs when great things happen. Alternatively, they resist major discouragement and downs when bad things happen.
Teaching yourself to be joyful is the single greatest thing you could do to enhance your health. Advancing medical technology is enabling us to learn how the human physiology and psyche are affected by negative and positive emotions. Our three primary negative emotionsfear, anger and sadnesshave devastating effects on our bodies when experienced in a prolonged state. On the other hand, our two primary positive emotionsjoy and excitementare like medicine to the body, as we discussed in last months column.
Everyone has a choice to live in joy and excitement or in fear, anger and sadness-regardless of their circumstances. Some people, however, think that until their difficult circumstances change, fear, anger and sadness will not subside and thats an illusion that can be overcome, if desired. Because fear is more of an illusion than a reality, the probability of gaining control over it or other debilitating emotions is very high. Now thats something to be joyful about.