Are joy and happiness interchangeable? The most notable difference is that joy is an internal choice despite external circumstances whereas happiness is an external pursuit that is separate from ourselves. Joy is a lasting, sustainable choice of how we respond to life whereas happiness is fleeting, dependent on an external factor that we cannot control from within. So, in my opinion, joy is a more worthwhile pursuit than happiness because we can experience joy in any given moment regardless of where we are, who we are, what we have or what we would like to have.
So, the big question is, how can we refine our skill set to include more joy in our lives? First off is to be aware of what joy actually feels like. For me joy has to do with a certain respect, awareness and gratitude for this very moment without wanting it to be different in any way. We so often make the mistake of denying ourselves joy in the moment based on our fantastical expectations of what this moment should be. Anytime we do not accept a situation for how it actually is, we are denying ourselves true joy, because we are tricking ourselves into believing that there is something wrong with how we are in this very moment. It sets off a cascade of thoughts that distracts us from the Now and makes us think we are Less Than.
In any given moment, if we return to the sensations of breath in the body, we are returning to the moment of Now. In the moment of Now, we have infinite possibilities to harness and experience our joy, whether it be from the gratitude that we are safe in this moment and can release unnecessary fear and anxiety that we have been carrying around with us or perhaps in releasing old expectations that are no longer serving our highest selves. My joy is usually found in the freedom outside of my thoughts, outside of my shoulds, joy is being pure potential without trying to make a form, it’s exploring without judgement, it’s opening my mindset to be as big as the universe to accommodate multiple viewpoints and knowing that I don’t have the answer and that there is no one answer to anything. Joy is freedom for my spirit and it feels like a warm buzz of excitement in my upper brain, ready to embrace what may come and to know deep down that I do not have the power to change anything other than how I respond to any given circumstance.
I'm not Buddha, I can’t find joy in every situation, but it’s getting easier to identify in the moment when I am grabbing for another outcome or vying for more power in a situation that is outside of my control. Once we can see the moment for what it is, having true awareness for the Now, we can slowly begin to let go of what we don’t need and find underneath the pile of expectations, shoulds and disappointments of the past our true joy that has always been there in our core, but was just buried, unloved and unseen for so long.