Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the difference between happiness and joy. Happy is what most people say they want to be. Happy is ripping open presents, enjoying our favorite meal, or watching our football team score the winning touchdown. Happiness is dancing and singing. Happiness is an emotion that fills us, makes us smile, laugh, and emanate an energy that others respond to. However, sometimes happiness can be tied to an outcome we are seeking. I’ll be happy when….  If our goals aren’t met, or things don’t go exactly the way we planned, or we don’t get the gift we were hoping for then we may not allow ourselves to be happy.

Joy. Joy is what is seen at airports when people are waiting for their loved ones to arrive. The other day a man in his eighties stood with his phone on video waiting. Watching him watch for his family brought tears to my eyes. Then a little boy ran to him calling out “Grandpa, Grandpa!” Everyone was crying. That’s joy!

Joy is connection. As a teacher, joy is the moment when a student who is struggling suddenly understands and you see the look of confidence on their face. Joy is helping someone in need. Joy is holding your baby in your arms. Joy is crossing a finish line you weren’t sure you’d cross. Joy is rescuing a pet from a cage in a shelter. Joy is laughing with your family at dinner. Joy is having your kids home from college and all being together. Joy is not something we get, it’s always with us always accessible no matter what our circumstance. Joy is a deep appreciation and celebration of life.

When I look back at the end of each day, each month, each year, I search for the joy. Every joy filled memory carries a feeling of peace. Living each day happy is a wonderful way to live as long as there are no conditions placed on the happiness. If there are then, it’s more like living a life seeking happiness and if you’re seeking you’re probably not happy. Living a joy filled life means recognizing the small moments that bring peace. It means becoming aware of the gifts we already have.

Happy Holidays! Joyful Holidays!

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