finding joy in unexpected places

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Increasing joy is something that I never really thought about until the past year. Sure, I wanted to be happier, but I never really put much attention on the concept of joy. In fact, until recently, I would have said they are pretty much the same thing.

However, I have started to observe the two emotions in the past few years and realize that there is indeed a tangible difference.

To me, happiness is an emotional mood or response to a positive event or external circumstance. And though others may not feel this way, I think happiness is a shallower, fleeting mood that is a bit more ego-ridden than its cousin, joy. For example, we often use the phrase, “I’ll be happy when …” to describe our positive response to future outcomes, experiences, and goals that we desire.

“I’ll be joyful when …” simply isn’t a part of our lingo.

I believe that joy isn’t used in that future and expectation-oriented phrase because it is a state of being that occurs within ourselves in the present moment.

In order to feel joy, all we need is to draw upon our gratitude for what is happening in the present moment. By doing this in a deep and peace-filled way, we feel joy.

In fact, I think we truly seek more joy in our lives, but often use the term “happy” inadvertently. And by using “happy” instead of joy, we expect a better life to flow through a continuous string of positive events — rather than a focus on present-moment gratitude.

A whole lotta stuff has to go right in our lives all the time for us to feel a sense of happiness at all times. It also negates a lot of other emotions inherent in the human experience and requires us to constantly have more good things in our lives in order to increase our level of happiness.

In fact, research has shown we have a happiness set point. But this set point does not necessitate that our experience of joy remains constant throughout our lives.

Gratitude begets joy.

Currently, I am fascinated by the natural gratitude triggers that produce immense joy in my own life.

I now realize that my most consistent experience of joy is when I am folding the laundry. 

Why the heck do I feel it then? I have no idea. I don’t like doing laundry. Folding clothes doesn’t make me happy. But when I fold our laundry, I feel peaceful and present minded. A wave of gratitude sweeps over me and I frequently feel joy that sometimes bring me to the verge of tears.

Folding laundry!

I also feel joy on flights with Mr. Lively and while looking at Lake Michigan. And in each of these scenarios I don’t seek joy from the circumstance. I have no attachment to a positive state of being. The joy simply comes.

I would love to know, what are your joy triggers?

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  1. JillGG

    I get that same feeling when I see my kids do exciting things… dropping them off to camp often leaves me on the verge of tears and not because I am going to miss them (though I do) but just because I can’t believe how amazing it is to have a kid going to camp, or doing well at school or winning soccer games!

    I do wish doing laundry left me that joyful though! 🙂

    1. That’s so cool! I have a feeling I might feel the same way when I have kids!

      And yes, I have NO clue why folding clothes creates joy for me. I think it’s just during a time that I’m quiet and I’m thinking about our little family.

  2. Sunray

    Funny you chose to post this today Jess. I just realized over the weekend that cleaning and tidying up our kitchen after each meal brings me joy. Well, before your post, I thought it just made me happy…but you are right…”joy” is the better word. The feeling is deeper and not as fleeting as being “happy”. It felt like my heart swelled up and I was just so…at peace. I couldn’t explain why I felt the way I did. Now I know…it’s my joy trigger!

    Thanks Jess! Have a great day!

    1. That’s so cool! I can totally see how that would be a joy trigger too. Peaceful + thankful. Nice!

  3. Melissa

    Earlier today, I was thinking about the whole trap of “I’ll be happy when…” and recognized the need to see the good in the present, even when things aren’t “perfect” or “done” (because that won’t really ever happen!). This post echoes that need — to find joy in the present moment, in the unexpected and everyday.

  4. Ffion

    Seeing beautiful sunsets, rainbows and wild animals. Watching children play. Hearing people talk about things they’re passionate about with gusto.

    Lovely post 🙂

  5. Driving is my “folding laundry” spot. I feel joy when driving. It seems to be the place when I stop and evaluate on a big scale and gratitude surges through me.

  6. Stephanie Hertel

    Beautiful post. You just summed up perfectly what I’ve been pondering the past couple of weeks as well.

    1. That is a great article, and you are right, very similar to what I’ve been finding in my own life.

      Thank you for sharing!

  7. Eric Wagner

    Joy is a step away from serenity–serenity being that state that includes joy within its silence. Any time I want to feel joy I simply give thanks. Joy is the absence of desire. When I am giving thanks (particularly unconditional thanks: thanks for each breath, thanks for consciousness) I am satisfied and filled with joy. Then, serenity can begin.

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