Happiness and joy are similar feelings. They are, also, very subjective so to some people the words could be interchangeable, but I'm going distinguish them by describing joy as something a person experiences and happiness is something a person creates. Joy is the short game and happiness is the long. Joy is a quick burst of a positive feeling while happiness is a more sustained positive existence that encompasses one's life. Happiness is a warm sunny day. Joy is like diving into a lake on a warm sunny day. However, it's important to point out that they are not dependent on each other.
I'd almost describe the feeling which I'm calling "joy" as a phenomenon because it happens spontaneously and involuntarily. It literally happens to a person. They do not create it nor can they control it. It's like laughter. When someone laughs, it is practically out of their control. I say "practically" because if a person tries hard enough they can probably force themself not to laugh. When someone makes us laugh, we like it. We, often, like the person, as well, because they "make" us laugh. Laughter is a similar phenomenon, like joy, because it happens to us. They go hand and hand. Our joy is often expressed through laughter.
Imagine that you are in the middle of a hopeless situation and even though you feel utterly miserable, a friend stops by and somehow finds a way to make you laugh. Your friend may not be able to save you from the situation, but for a few seconds they're able to give you a tiny little vacation from it. Something about your friend's sense of humor is able to tap into a part of you that, for some reason, you cannot access alone and this is where the laughter comes from. Of course, laughter is even more enjoyable when we're not in a miserable situation, but I use this example to demonstrate how independent of circumstances joy and laughter are. What if you could access this part of yourself whenever you wanted? Maybe there's a divine reason why we can't do this alone. We might lose ambition or not value our relationships with other people as much. I speak from experience when I say I have stumbled upon the true source of joy and I can testify to this fact everyday.
When I was a lot younger full of blind ambition, it may have appeared that I had a lot going for myself on the outside. I went on adventurous trips, was on tv a few times, achieved a number of goals and had my whole life ahead of me. I drove a cooler vehicle, made more money, but, surprisingly, I didn't have anything going for me on the inside. I didn't know how to be happy. I certainly didn't experience joy everyday. All I knew was that I had a lot more goals and I guess by achieving them I thought I'd somehow become happy even though understanding happiness, itself, wasn't one of my goals. Many people if asked what they want out of life will say "I just want to be happy." I guess I thought by being "successful" happiness would take care of itself. Now, I'm a failure, on paper. I have nothing to show for my life. No wife or children, no big house or fancy car, etc., yet I experience pure joy every day completely alone. It's the only friend that visits me on a regular basis. If that's not a phenomenon then I don't know what is. Happiness, on the other hand, comes later.
As I've previously stated, joy is not a choice. I have no control over this experience. It happens to me. I don't know how, when or why, but at some point, tomorrow, I'll be outside working and something random is going to happen and I'm just going to start laughing. This never used to happen. When I was younger, I'd spill something or make a dumb mistake and want to put my fist through a wall. My policy towards life was "suck it up and white-knuckle it." Thanks Irish Catholic pride. Now, I go around laughing at anything, usually, myself, especially when I do something dumb. How did this happen? I'm sure most of my ex-girlfriends would have a very hard time believing this. I was tough to be around when I was working on something. This new way of experiencing life is not a result of some new, touchy-feely, higher consciousness view on life. It just happens. It spills out of me. I have no choice in the matter, but I get to experience it and it's one of the best feelings in the world. I'm still climbing the mountain of my life, alone, but somehow somewhere along my journey I stumbled upon this joy and I wish all people could experience it. Though I experience this phenomenon alone, it doesn't happen nearly enough to fill my life. The feeling is even greater and more natural when I'm with people. This is why building happiness is my next greatest challenge. Now, I'll tell you the secret of this joy's source.
I didn't discover it. I uncovered it. What no one has ever told you or...speaking for myself, what no one ever told me was that it's always been there. We're born with this joy inside us and it never left. This is where laughter comes from when someone who "gets us" manages to tap into regardless of how our lives are going or the state of the world. It's already in there. Many of us have just lost access to this source. For the record, I don't go around talking like this all the time. People would think I'm crazy. I barely ever used the word "joy" until this started happening to me, but I had to give it a name and people should know the truth. It is a fact and I am living proof. I don't deserve it any more than anyone else. All I've done is remember. Remembering something and thinking about it are not the same thing. Why are children, puppies, kittens, etc. so fun to be around? Because they're full of joy. They haven't had time to forget. They're young and the link to joy hasn't been broken, yet.
This has been happening to me for a few years, now. I can't wait to get the rest of my life on track because if I can feel this good for these short little intervals with the way things are, now, I can't imagine how amazing it's going to be when I'm not in a constant state of fear of survival and completely alone. La dee freakin dah. I've been studying this phenomenon the whole time and the best conclusion I've come up with, which might be hard for people to digest, is that it's our natural state. We're born full of joy and then we're taught how to be unhappy. I believe unhappiness is a form of mental illness. It's a result of how we were taught to think. I'll acknowledge that I can't speak for anyone else, but I believe happiness is my natural state and all I have to do is build a natural life to support it. If you want to discover whether it's your natural state, too, then the truth in this book might help you get there.
Later, I'll present the basic tools on how I got back to this place and how to maintain it, but, right now, it's crucial to realize that joy is not a result of accomplishments, success, talent, intelligence, money, appearance or approval. Yes, it does require some work like moving boxes up in front of a window to let the sunshine in, but you can't pay or hire someone to do this for you. You can't buy your way to joyfulness. You can't do anything other than get out of its way by moving whatever you've put in its way. It's no different than when a friend makes you laugh. You didn't do anything other than sit there and let it happen. When I started experiencing joy, I was broke, alone and freezing my ass off living out of my truck in Alaska drinking myself to sleep every night and I don't even like to drink. I didn't know a soul and no one, who I did know, knew where I was, not a very joyful existence, but, nevertheless, one day I just let go of everything that I thought I was supposed to be hanging onto and I just started laughing. I wouldn't recommend this approach. I experienced joy despite these circumstances, certainly not because of them. Relevant to my story, I didn't really have a choice. What I was hanging onto was probably going to kill me if I didn't let go of it. I was finally far enough away from everything and everyone I ever knew, my part of the group, to see the path I'd been on and why I took it. What I discovered is that some of things on our table can be put there by someone else. Get rid of them and you'll see yourself, as well as the world, more clearly. Rather than a relationship a person has with a friend, joy happens as a result of the relationship a person has with life, not a good life or a bad life. Just life. We've got nothing to do with life. We didn't choose to be born. Life happened to us and so can joy. Let it.