There is a subtle but distinct difference between happiness and joy, one you need to be aware of.
Happiness, codified in the Declaration of Independence, is clearly worth pursuing but is more transitory in nature and based on external triggers — other people, events, places, objects and sensory pleasures like good food or a spectacular view.
Joy is a deeper, more complex emotion that comes from within, based on self-acceptance, gratitude, compassion and generosity. It can exist with sadness and pain, and indeed makes those emotions more tolerable when they inevitably arise.
We have much more control over our joy through our words, actions and beliefs, and it’s something we can and should cultivate throughout our daily lives.
Find ways to serve others — Acts of service remind you life is much bigger than yourself and pulls you out of much of the emotional drama you experience. When you ask how you can help others, it expands your thinking into what you bring to the table for other people: your ability to listen compassionately, think critically, advocate for others or set a vision for the future.
Practice gratitude — Think of three new reasons to be grateful every day. It’s terribly easy to get into the rut of thinking the same thoughts about the same things, make the same decisions and get the same results. Interrupting those patterns with thoughts of gratitude for what is in your life pushes your mind to move in new directions and uncover different approaches to issues, as well as simply creating a more joyful you.
Be your authentic self — This means being true to your instincts when you plot your own path in life, regardless of what other people say you should do. Your life is your own, and you should not be spending it trying to be something you’re not, even if it seems like it would be advantageous in some ways. If you’re not sure what path you should take, meditation can put you in touch with the stillness at the core of your being, where your truth and joy are found.
Choose your influencers wisely — Think about those who you spend most of your time with, whether family, friends, coworkers or social media stars. Pay attention to who is always positive, supportive and inspirational to you. That’s a pretty high bar and you don’t want to cut everyone who doesn’t meet it out of your life, but remember to pay attention to those who consistently leave you feeling positive and forward-looking.
Accept and love yourself — One of the most human of all our tendencies is to look at other people’s lives as a reference point to where we should or want to be, but letting go of that allows you to see everything you need is within you. Practicing self-compassion means accepting and appreciating compliments and praise; don’t berate yourself over small mistakes. Value and value who you are. Stand up for yourself.