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The new year, 2021, holds hope for finding happiness and joy. What does that really mean? Because these words are often used interchangeably, knowing the difference will help you manage your emotions.

First, let’s define happiness and joy. Happiness is a state of well-being, contentment or pleasure. Joy is the emotion that comes from the state of well-being or success. (See article in

These are both positive terms and emotions. However, there is a subtle difference.


Happiness is a feeling or state of mind that is influenced by external events. We feel happy when we get a new job. That feeling remains until another event comes along and perhaps bursts our bubble.

External conditions drive feelings of happiness. These feelings are affected by the actions of people and things in our environment. When plans fall through or circumstances become negative, our happiness disappears.

Happiness with smiling woman embracing domestic cat at home
Photo by Sam Lion on


Joy is an internal feeling. It is derived from a French word “joie” which means to be glad or rejoice.

This emotion is internally driven and not dependent on other people or events. Joy comes from maintaining your own inner peace and satisfaction with yourself. Having purpose in your life, connecting with others, and spiritual beliefs all contribute to joy in your soul.

Joy with little girl with yellow leaves standing in autumn park
Photo by Charles Parker on


Happiness is a short term feeling while joy is a long term emotion found throughout our journey.

An example is achieving a goal. This produces happiness. The process of achieving the goal produces joy!

While happiness depends on external things going well, joy can be felt in the midst of problems and pain. Joy is rooted in an attitude of gratitude and mindfulness. It is cultivated within, not received from the outside.

What Are You Seeking?

As you pursue and achieve your goals in 2021, embrace the happiness of those moments of success. In the journey of pursuing and achieving your goals, let joy carry you.

Happiness is fleeting and fades quickly. But, joy cultivated through inner peace and gratitude will remain and be your strength in times of challenge and disappointment.

Cultivate joy in your life and happiness will be a by-product!

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