Joy vs. Happiness and How to Get More of Both

Feeling Joyful and Free

Brené Brown, Atlas of the Heart

Brené Brown gave a talk a few night’s ago to discuss her new book, Atlas of the Heart. Her research and thoughts on Joy vs. Happiness were interesting to me, as it’s a distinction my husband is often asked about, since he started Made for Joy.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Defining Joy

Brown defines Joy, based on her research, as “an intense feeling of deep spiritual connection, pleasure, and appreciation,” as contrasted with Happiness, where her data suggests is defined as “feeling pleasure often related to the immediate environment or current circumstances.” What struck me most was her belief that Joy is associated with connection — connection to others, to God, to nature, to the Universe — it’s more internal, she believes, whereas happiness is more external and circumstantial.

Photo by Ann Nekr on Pexels.com

Always with the Gratitude …

And the clearest path to deeper and more frequent Joy is through Gratitude. I know that, yet do I have a daily Gratitude practice? No, I do not. Are my bookshelves lined with Gratitude Journals begun and abandoned? Yes, they are. My best efforts lasted only days before they were forgotten in the press of work or errands or cooking or reading or any of the dozens of items that appear on my daily “To Do” list. Just five minutes is all a Gratitude Practice requires, and yet it’s five minutes that I cannot seem to find. And yet, Brown’s findings that being grateful adds to and deepens our Joy makes complete sense.

You’ve probably heard that as humans we tend to have a genetic set point of happiness that momentary ups and downs quickly modulate back to as baseline. But Brown’s research leads her to believe that practicing gratitude can extract more from our best moments. Yes, the “newness” and excitement of that car, house, dress, shoe, spouse will fade, but if we take the time to appreciate it, the feelings of joy and happiness derived from it will be deeper, and perhaps longer-lasting.

Foreboding Joy (sounds scary!)

One other take-away on Joy that spoke to me, Brown calls “foreboding Joy.” Never heard of it, but definitely have experienced it. It’s when “you’re afraid to lean into good news, wonderful moments, and joy.” You are afraid that if you lean into it, fully experience and embrace it, you’ll only end up hurt more in the end. You wait for the other shoe to drop, as surely it will, and by protecting yourself from that assumed inevitability you also shield yourself from truly feeling deep joy. Truly experiencing Joy, Brown says, is an act of vulnerability. Her research found that everyone who showed a deep capacity for joy also practice gratitude. There’s that Gratitude word again. Pursuing me, relentlessly. Demanding that I pay attention if I want to truly live my fullest, my best life.

My Life Lesson

The lesson I got from reading Brown’s thoughts on Joy and Happiness? Be grateful for each joyful moment life brings me. Soak it in — smell, taste, touch, feel and embrace it fully. It’s not going to last forever, and surely some obstacle or challenge or depressing or sad or horrible thing also lies ahead, but at least by embracing the moments of joy that equally await I will have the resilience, strength and courage to take on whatever life may bring. The best way to do that?

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Connect — with others, with Nature, with the Universe…

Photo by Marcus Wu00f6ckel on Pexels.com

Practice Gratitude. Picking up one of my many gratitude journals and going for it again!


Do I Have Something to Say?

I learned to speak when I was very young. And I also learned there were rules on what I could and could not say, if I wanted to be good, if I did not want to get in trouble. I learned I was not to brag, or “back-talk” (otherwise known as saying what I felt if it differed from what I was supposed to feel or what my parents wanted to hear).

That still, small voice within is stuffed so far down — covered up with so many layers of protective coatings reapplied day after day and year after year that it’s hard even now, after a decade spent seeking my own truth, to hear my truest self.

Even when I want so badly to live authentically, to speak my truth, to give wings to my soul’s desires, to live boldly and bravely and honestly, to be raw and vulnerable and simply me, freed of a lifetime’s worth of society’s coatings, I find I don’t know how. I read a poem, do a meditation, hear an inspirational speaker, see an Instagram quote that speaks to me and truly believe that this is it — that now I understand, that now, finally, I will get started on living my best life. That I will use my time efficiently, that I will spend my days “in the flow.” That I will stop endlessly scrolling through twitter or keeping up with email or wondering where the time has gone when I look up and see my well-planned morning is now afternoon. But the next day ends up the same. I still feel the spark of that latest motivation taunting me — “see,” it says, “you’re still the same. You still haven’t figured out how to do life differently, more expansively, more truthfully. You’re still wasting your one wild and precious life.”

What DO I want to say? Is there really some voice inside that I’ve never been free or brave enough to let loose? No bullet journal or Todoist or other tool has so far managed to get me on track. Perhaps by rambling and searching and putting out into the universe what comes into my head in this blog I will find my way. I’d love to have you along for the ride.


We Chose Joy

fullsizeoutput_9fc4

A little more than an hour’s winding, curvy drive from the San Diego Airport to the border town of Tecate, Mexico, we arrived at the Ranch on the last Saturday of March for the first-ever Gathering of Joy.  The goal?  To create connections and dive into discussions of how perspective, humility, humor, acceptance, forgiveness, gratitude, compassion and generosity can help us cultivate a life of Joy, no matter the circumstances.  Happiness is a great feeling — who doesn’t want to feel happy?  But it’s fleeting as well. This week was about not just being happy, or about how to remove all sorrow from your life, but about how you can have a deep abiding sense of Joy regardless of the circumstances.  A happiness that lasts, and that shines from within.

The Book of Joy

The Ranch offered us a beautiful setting in which to learn, blessing us with everything from sacred Mount Kuchumaa to abundant wildflowers blooming along the winding paths, creating a sense of peace that created an ideal environment in which to connect, build relationships, and learn.

0BF911A4-0AA2-466A-BEB7-805225A64218

fullsizeoutput_a00a

Magic was in the impromptu and unexpected moments sprinkled throughout the week, from being treated to an original Maya Fiennes song after hearing her story…

width=

to sharing a delicious dinner in a six-acre organic garden under the stars, with surprise performances from Opera Ambulante, inspiration through poetic entertainment from Gill Sotu, and music from Jake Shimabukuro…

Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset

to being part of Damien’s once-in-a-lifetime experience courtesy of a man whose heart is at least as big as his incredible talent, at Jake’s Thursday night concert.

 

We made friends.  We ate a lot of vegetables.  We laughed and we cried.  We hiked and meditated and listened and learned.  We are eternally grateful to each of you for taking this week out of your busy lives to gather together to cultivate joy.

As Doug Abrams says in the close to the book our week was centered around:

“…we would be missing the main message of the Dalai Lama’s and the Archbishop’s teachings if we did not emphasize that the source of true joy, as evidenced all week long and in their lives, is in our relationships with other people. … Ultimately, joy is not something to learn, it is something to live.  And our greatest joy is lived in deep, loving, and generous relationships with others.”

EB776A98-3440-4983-BCC9-009251FCE498

We’ll be premiering a video featuring some of the highlights of the week at a soon-to-be-, and you are all invited to attend.  Details are forthcoming.  If you are not able to make the meal, we’ll be adding the video to our website the next day, for all to enjoy.  And, as our plans evolve over the next few months for our next Gathering event,  we will be sure to share all of the details with you in hopes that we can continue learning to live our best lives, in relationship and with deep and profound JOY.