In short: Happiness is an external expression of excitement, while joy is an internal peace.

Unlike happiness, joy is not dependent on circumstances and external factors — joy is the truest form of contentment and it is everlasting. That being said, it’s still something you have to practice daily (which I’ll get into below).

“Joy” comes from the Greek root word chara and means, “to be exceedingly glad,” which I believe describes this overwhelming emotion perfectly.

Even though joy is an emotion many of us should be manifesting, we spend way more of our time thinking about happiness and how we can achieve more to feel more.

“If only I could get that pay raise! Then I’d eventually be able to quite my job and do what I really love: jewelry-making.”

“If he would just listen to me, he would finally understand that I need him to pitch in more around the house.”

“If she would just stop pressuring me to be ready for kids, maybe I would finally realize that, yes, I am ready!”

Even if you finally get what it is that you think you need in order to be happy, you will soon come to realize that something else goes wrong…and then something else.

Happiness can be dependent on all sorts of factors: How much money you make, how much time you devote to sex, how sexy you think you look in a swimsuit, and so on.

Joy, on the other hand, does not take any of this into account.

It does not disappear just because things at home are tough.

It does not pack up and move out because work is stressful.

Joy does not allow a day, week, month, or year to be ruined just because of an unexpected event.

In short: Happiness is an external expression of excitement, while joy is an internal peace.

Joy is so wonderful — what’s the catch? If we can experience joy even when all hell breaks loose, what’s holding so many of us back?

I’ll tell you what’s holding us back. In order to experience true joy, you have to be the most vulnerable, raw, cracked-open version of yourself in every moment.

As Dr. Brene Brown so beautifully stated:

Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy — the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.

In other words, have you ever had things go so freaking well in your life that you couldn’t help but obsess over why they were so good?

Have you ever stopped in your tracks, realizing that you were on the brink of total vulnerability, and freaked out, closing the door before it could even crack open?

Ever look down at your kids while they eat breakfast (or in my case, my 3-year-old pup eating puppy chow) and feel full of gut-wrenching fear at the thought of losing them?

Just like disordered eating is a coping mechanism for feeling out of control, what if-ing is a coping mechanism for vulnerability.

But the hard cold truth is, without vulnerability, there is no true joy.

Without allowing yourself to open up, share with those who matter, and be your absolute authentic self, you will never achieve true joy… only happiness.

Sure, you will be on cloud nine when you get that promotion you’ve been chasing after for so long.

Yes, you will feel moments of extreme happiness when you and your partner connect on a deeper, more spiritual level.

You bet you’ll feel blissful whenever you make a decision that aligns with your character.

But these are all moments of happiness, not joy.

And if that’s as good as it gets, then you will have to continuously work for your happiness, instead of just receiving it and living inside of it.

If you want to experience joy, the first step is to…

1. Own up to who you are.

After reading The Gifts of Imperfection by Dr. Brene Brown, I learned that shame will withhold you from experiencing love-based decisions, and will keep you in a cycle of perfectionism and fear.

If you feel shame, share it with somebody who you know can handle it without adding to your shame.

Share it with someone that is a part of your tribe and will respond in a way that will make you feel less alone.

2. Acknowledge fear as another part of your life, but don’t live inside of it.

There will always be fear in your life. It’s an emotion just like all the other emotions, so thinking you can get rid of it forever is foolish.

Instead, acknowledge fear as another form of protection that your body has for you.

Thank your body for keeping an eye out for potential danger, but then politely tell fear it can move right along. As long as you are open, vulnerable and authentic, you will experience some fear (because taking risks can be scary), but you do not have to be ruled by it.

3. Ask yourself often, “Am I looking for happiness, or am I embodying joy?”

It’s easy to get caught up in the comparison trap in this day and age with social media. We can find ourselves scrolling for hours, looking at other people’s stuff, and wishing it were our stuff.

Do you think that’s promoting a joyful life? Do you think that’s encouraging you to be authentically yourself?

If you notice you have these unhealthy habits, then make the decision to let them go. You may be far better off without them.

Joy is a beautiful part of life; it’s something that every individual inherently deserves throughout his or her duration on this planet. What is keeping you from feeling chara right now, and what can you do to embody it in this very moment?

3 Ways to Feel Joy Instead of Temporary Happiness was first published by Ravishly {see here}.

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