Forget happiness, the science says you need joy in your life

Living with joy is more important than happiness, because joy is a deeper feeling.

Why is joy important in life? If you are like me, you might have thought that joy and happiness were the same things, but that is not true. Happiness is a feeling that comes from experience, whereas joy comes from an overall sense of well-being.

Because joy stems from a sense of well-being and success, it starts with the cultivation of purpose and meaning. Joy also arises from the expectation of a better life ahead, which demands that we are headed in the right direction and working towards our wishes and goals.

If you are looking to improve your life with the cultivation of joy, keep reading as I will share with you why it is so important.

Why is Joy Important in Life?

Having a sense of purpose in life creates an opportunity to cultivate joy and well-being. Put another way, when we have a goal that we are committed to, we develop a feels of purpose through all of our actions. Think of it this way; if you are doing whatever you want, there is no structure or reason behind it.

Whereas, when you have a goal or a target, everything that you do can be in service of that objective.

That said, we don’t have to limit the importance of joy to some material success like a job or money. For some people, purpose can come from starting a family or raising one’s kids as best as possible. And this is important to keep in mind, as joy is an emotional response to success and good fortune. Thus seeing your kids succeed in life can feel fulfilling if that was something that you worked at as a parent.

Taking what we just said a step further, when we work towards things with purpose, we are more likely to achieve something grander. One of the most significant difficulties in achieving anything worth our attention is not having a clearly defined goal. It matters because when you don’t know what you are trying to get, it is impossible to find.

Building on this, having a plan or at least a clear goal is always going to help you have more significant results.

If we look at the meanings of the words, happiness appears to stem from experiences that can be short-lived or temporary. In contrast, joy seems to come from a process or prolonged dedication to something of value. You might find happiness in enjoying an ice cream cone by the beach, but joy will come from successfully building a business or graduating from university.

Joy is essential in life because it comes from us deliberately doing what matters to us.

Also, because it is a part of a process; it builds and grows with time. With the previous example, you might enjoy getting an ice cream cone, but is that something you can enjoy for weeks on end? Probably not; however, with joy, we are constantly building it up and working towards it, which makes it a more significant feeling.

Taking this all together, if we are working towards what matters to us, we are more likely to be happy and positive. These joyful feelings translate into us being more friendly and kind to the people around us. I know for myself when I’m having a bad day, I can’t be my best self for other people.

In turn, this means that when we cultivate success and accomplishment, our moods are improved, and we can be better people for those around us.

Joy in life is important because it helps us be better people who are more happy and prosperous. Now that we have covered the social benefits of living with joy let’s look at what science says.

The Science Behind How Joy Affects Our Health

Happiness and joy are important in life because they positively influence our health; let’s look at some scientific research supporting this claim. What is necessary to keep in mind, is that living with joy in your life improves the immune system, life expectancy and overall health.

In this study from Autoimmunity ReviewsOpens in a new tab., scientists reviewed the literature on emotions and their effect on immune health and found a positive correlation. In other words, people who had a more negative approach to life were at a higher risk for illness. Whereas those with a more positive outlook were at a lower risk for illness. And while these results are promising, the exact reason why isn’t so apparent.

Another study from the National Academy of ScienceOpens in a new tab. found that optimistic people have an 11 – 15% longer life. In this study, science looks at large data sets from veterans and nurses; they checked in on the people after ten and then 30 years.

The researchers concluded that those with more positivity were more likely to live past 85, which is considered exceptional longevity.

A good thing about this study is that they control things like wealth, health and social situations.

In yet another study from the Journal of Happiness StudiesOpens in a new tab., Spanish researchers looked at middle-class, educated people in their 60s and ’70s.

They found that people with higher levels of positivity were much less likely to report health problems.

And while the people in the study were just as healthy as their peers, it didn’t seem to cause as many problems.

These studies show a positive connection between people’s sense of positivity or joy and health outcomes. While some aspects of our personalities are outside of our control, it is essential to improve our sense of joy as much as possible as the evidence shows the benefits.

Now that we know the scientific value behind joy let’s quickly touch on the difference between joy and happiness.

The Difference Between Joy and Happiness

Happiness is what happens when we have a positive experience. When something good happens, or we get what we want, we will have a feeling of happiness. Whereas, when we work towards something important and finally get it, we will have a sense of joy.

Joy is essential because it comes from sustained effort towards something that matters.

This means that we might get a reward for our actions. This isn’t to say that we need to succeed at something to feel joy; instead, joy builds up with time and effort.

We might experience happiness when something unexpected happens and improves our lot, but joy is often something that we anticipate. Using a business as an example, you might feel happiness after landing your first client. However, joy is something that would grow as you built the business into something long-lasting and sustainable.

We also want to be careful not to sacrifice joy for happiness.

Put another way, I might enjoy playing video games tonight and every other night this week. But if that came at the expense of working towards my goals, in the long run, I’m going to be less satisfied with what I’ve accomplished. When we allow short-term enjoyment to get in the way of long-term development, we are preventing ourselves from experiencing joy.

While we might not find joy in the simple things in life, it is something that we can build on and cultivate over time. Having joy in your life is crucial because it comes from continued dedication to something of value.

How To Increase Joy In Your Life

As we have seen, joy is an important thing to have in our lives, so let’s talk about ways to increase it.

  1. Come up with a big goal: Joy comes from working towards something that matters and doesn’t just pop up. If you want to increase your likelihood of joy, you need to create a situation where it is possible.
  2. Develop lasting relationship: Hooking up with someone on an online dating platform might give you some happiness. But having a long-term and meaningful relationship will bring you joy.
  3. Start a family: Don’t do this on a whim, as a family is a long-term commitment; but that is what makes it suitable as a source of joy. Raising children and creating functioning adults requires lots of effort but has a huge payoff.
  4. Start a business: Not everyone is built for entrepreneurship, but long-term dedication and the empowerment that building a business produces also brings joy and satisfaction.
  5. Revisit a past dream: When we want something, it takes work to get it, but sometimes we give up too early or move on to other things. If there was something you wanted in the past, you might still want it today, so working towards it will be a process that brings joy to your life.

Living with joy in your life is important because it comes from commitments and working towards goals. While this means we might not find joy right away, we can work towards it in time if we try.

If you found this article enjoyable, you might also enjoy this one that asks how do you know what you love doing? In that article, we look at 12 questions that will help you figure out what you love or ensure that you love what you are currently doing.

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Robert Carr

Over the years, I've learnt to see things in a different light. This website is my place to share those insights and give my unique perspective on living a meaningful life.

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