Joy and Happiness

“Joy” comprehends “happiness,” but “happiness” may not comprehend “joy.” Joy is a spiritual attribute, and happiness is a material attribute. Material things satisfy the outer self, but the inner self can only be truly satisfied when it experiences “joy.” For many, “joy” is a familiar term, but it is not (universally) attributable to happiness because happiness for many is a physical and material compulsion, but material possessions cannot explain the joy that radiates from within. Look into the eyes of a mother as she holds her child, that is Joy, it is an indescribable feeling that has no material compulsion associated with it. Joy exists deep within the soul.

“The glory of science is that it is freeing the soul ―breaking the mental manacles —getting the brain out of bondage ―giving courage to thought —filling the world with mercy, justice, and Joy.” — Robert G. Ingersoll (1833-1899)

Practice the spiritual attributes of loving, caring, giving, and sharing daily and an overwhelming joy will spring up in your life. Joy is the “sentinel” that guards the soul when “happiness” takes flight. Joy surpasses happiness because it is within us as opposed to outside of us, fostered by the need for material things to satisfy people’s physical compulsions.

Scientific researchers point to nations on various scales that measure their capacity to provide an environment in which happiness can flourish, but rarely do researchers into happiness sight “joy” as the higher imperative of happiness. One can proffer that some individuals, living in developed (wealthy) nations; their lives are an “unhappy parallel” to some people that live in developing and underdeveloped (poor) countries, as well.


People can attain joy, we must clear our minds of all unhealthy thoughts, all negativism, all pre–conceptions, all racism, all prejudice, all judgments, and all fears that set up barriers to listening, learning, and understanding. We must then fill our minds with “spiritual attributes” such as faith, hope, charity, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self–control. These thoughts will permeate our being and open up new frontiers of awareness of the dichotomy between happiness (an undulating temporary state), versus joy, a more permanent state of tranquility.

Without such an understanding, nations cannot free themselves of the bridle of selfishness, nor can they realize their full potential as truly happy and joyful nations that can fulfill the more important human needs. Happiness has a natural connection to that which is external. Hence the tendency to give or receive something tangible seems to underlie people’ state of happiness. One could surmise that an appropriate balance of “Joy” and “happiness” is essential to sustain happiness.

Chronic illness can be a predicate of chronic unhappiness and resentment of life, but a state of joy is transcendental. My memory harkens back to the opportunity that I had to share with Aunt Ella-May (1915–1995) as she contemplated her mortality. She shared her faith and hope in the present and afterlife without any fears or regrets. Moreover, the “joy” that she expressed even at the midnight hour she was facing. Her contentment and happiness at her transition were transcendental.

Devout religious individuals understand the nature of “joy” that comes from exercising their faith, belief, and practice, even when faced with challenges in daily life. They know the difference in circumstances that transcends happiness and “joy.” People can be unhappy with a situation but still maintain their “joy,” which comes from knowing that God is in control despite their daily challenges. The Epistle of James informs of the benefits of “joy.”

“The word ‘joy’ comes from the Greek root word chara and means ‘to be exceedingly glad.’ “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” James 1:2–4 (NIV).

“I have been told that happiness is external and based on situations, events, people, places, things, and thoughts. Therefore, happiness is the result of outside situations, people, or events that align with your expectations. Joy is internal and comes when you make peace with who you are, where you are, and why you are” (Psychology Today,

Grandmothers sang an old song: “I’ve got that joy, joy, joy, joy! Down in my heart…” George Willis Cooke (1848–1923), born in Comstock, Michigan, USA. Grandma’s singing resonated throughout traditional households; she was trying to tell us that she derived “joy” from her spiritual heart connection. More importantly, no one could take “joy” away from her because it was down in her heart to stay.

The outward evidence was a spirit imbued with kindness, generosity, gentleness, peacefulness, and happiness. We agree that “joy” is a spiritual attribute because of its persuasive power, but “joy” needs nurturing to remain uppermost in our mind. We share these twenty practices to cultivate “joy” in our lives to maintain a spiritual presence.


  1. Believe in a higher purpose of existence.
  2. Visit and entertain family and friends.
  3. Visit residents in a nursing home.
  4. Work from home (if it is feasible).
  5. Live within your financial means.
  6. Be thankful for everything.
  7. Read inspirational books.
  8. Take spontaneous vacations.
  9. Cultivate a vegetable garden.
  10. Admire the growth of plants.
  11. Listen to inspirational music.
  12. Support family and friends.
  13. Maintain a positive attitude.
  14. Avoid conflicts in your life.
  15. Hang portraits together.
  16. Write poetry together.
  17. Wear relaxing clothes.
  18. Cook meals together.
  19. Visit the ocean.
  20. Daydream.

These twenty activities are practical. When you practice them daily, they help to maintain a spiritual and physical connection with the universe and elevate mindfulness. They parallel the “joy” that we experienced as children, filled with the simpler things in life, despite the busy lifestyle of the postmodern family.

Have you ever considered where happiness goes when we fail to make the final draft pick on the football team, when a spouse files for a divorce, or when a company decides to downsize your position? When happiness takes flight because of a change in circumstances, “joy” remains the guardian of the soul and continues to shine the light on a path to happiness. It is on the platform of “joy” that happiness rests.

Happiness is elevated when we communicate with each other. For “better or for worse,” our lives have become an extension of the world of “Artificial Intelligence” (AI). The relationships that we have formed with technology seem to distract us from our greater goal to establish and maintain our primary relationships with other human beings. Observably, much of the conflict and unhappiness, and the lack of “joy” in human lives may be due in part to the lessening of communications between people in favor of increasing our communications with machines.

Something monumental has gone wrong in human relationships in our postmodern age that is leading to conflict and unhappiness, and “joyless” living. The evidence is in conflict with religions, races, colors, cultures, and among competitors in the political arena. Further confirmation is the divorce rates, family fragmentation, and even the present challenge to national and international relations. Happiness and “joy” can only flourish in an environment of high communications where people and nations have a shared “worldview.”

“Joy” and “happiness” can have measures that scientists can quantify. Imagine the reduction in conflict, the avoidance of conflict, and the billions of dollars in savings that the world could benefit from if people merely communicated with each other in a more efficient, consistent, and wholesome manner. Imagine if world leaders understood the importance of a happy nation, as a predicate of happy individuals, happy families, happy communities, and happy corporations. What if world leaders took the next steps and created a Ministry of Happiness (MOH), and a corresponding Minister of Happiness for their respective nations?

A crisis in global leadership is evident by the complexity of political, social, and economic problems that modern thinkers refer to as “wicked problems.” Wicked problems are more than complicated—they are complex, difficult to define, and changing (Grint, 2010; Heifer, 1994; Ritter & Webber, 1973). Wicked problems underpin great unhappiness in the world. The solutions to “wicked problems” demand an awakening to the need for higher “Spiritual Intelligence” (SQ) to underpin “leadership intelligence.”

Without great caution, “wicked problems” can rise to great heights of inhumanity and translate into catastrophic events in the world, such as World War I (1914–1918), and World War II (1939–1945). Imagine if nations introduced studies regarding the positive influence of “joy” and “happiness” to the high school and university curriculum. Imagine the transformation that would take place in family communications, corporate boardrooms and national and international relations. The world would have taken a first step towards ensuring that the repeat of history does not continue to be the legacy of humankind.


Writers, Errol A. and Marjorie G. Gibbs are avid readers, inspired researchers, and mentors. Their journey, which began with their “search for happiness,” led along paths to “Optimum Happiness (OH),” which is a “higher value proposition” for human survival as a viable species. These same paths await, on your “journey of discovery.” “Discovering Your Optimum ‘Happiness Index’ (OHI).”


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