What does it take to be happy? Better yet, what brings you joy?
I like the distinction made by the website https://www.psychologies.co.uk
In the article Joy vs happiness it says,
Joy and happiness are wonderful feelings to experience, but are very different. Joy is more consistent and is cultivated internally. It comes when you make peace with who you are, why you are and how you are, whereas happiness tends to be externally triggered and is based on other people, things, places, thoughts and events… .
Joy by far is the better thing to seek. It is closer to contentment and is longer sustaining. We all want to be happy, but happiness is volatile. I want to have joy with happiness sprinkled throughout. What are some ways to find joy?
I had the unforgettable opportunity to travel to Nicaragua in July of 2013. I was part of a missions trip that lasted eight days. After this trip, my view on what makes a person happy and what brings them joy has changed dramatically. My life was changed far more than the individuals we encountered near the equator.
The first village we visited in my group was in one of the poorest villages in the area. Their homes were made of tree branches and plastic as a roof which was also wrapped around the branches for walls. The floor was simply dirt, which they swept as often as needed to keep the dirt clean. The home had no door that could be closed other than draping plastic across the entryway. Their personal belongings lay on top of their bed, made by hand out of grass, straw, and branches. Each family member had about four or five things on their bed, all that they considered their own. Our mission at one of the homes was to upgrade it from the branches and plastic to sheet metal and 2×6 planks as seen below.
That’s right, an upgrade! Our group played with the children in a circle a few feet from their home. We smiled and laughed as we played games in a place where we barely knew the language and had an interpreter explain the rules and sum up was said. The mother of these children watched on as she held a toddler wearing a ragged t-shirt and no bottoms on. Imagine taking care of a toddler and never being able to afford diapers and wipes. I think the thing that shocked me the most was the joy these people had in this condition.
This family cooked on an open fire every night, used branches and plastic to provide privacy for the hole that was dug for their toileting needs. Their shower was usually water collected into a garbage bag. They would cut a hole in the bottom for the water to come out, pretty innovative if you ask me. Many of the families lived in conditions that seemed destitute and meager. The truth is, however, that some of these families seemed happier and had more joy in their lives than most of the people I know in this country. We complain of not enough space to hold our family or our stuff. People here tend to complain about the most trivial things. We are a culture of chasing things that make us happy rather than seeking true joy. The family we were visiting found joy in each other and in the new relationships that were being formed with us.
I think the answer is easy. Form and improve your relationships through your love for others. Love others despite your differences, and give of your time serving them. I have felt more joy in my life by serving others or trying to make someone else’s life better than I ever have serving myself and obtaining things. The trouble with things is that you can never find true joy through them, only temporary happiness. When you die, others will distribute your stuff. You can’t take it with you, none of it.
What part of you do you wish to leave behind, all your stuff? That’s going to happen anyway and you can’t even be certain who will get it, even with a lawyer involved. More family wars have sparked because of the distribution of a dead person’s stuff than we can ever know.
If I were to leave behind anything, I hope it is the joy I was able to bring others. I would also hope that others could look at my life and say, “He truly found joy through loving and serving others.” My life will be truly fulfilling if I can look back and say I made a positive impact and contribution for others and not that I was able to expand the space I take up on this planet with my property and material goods.
I am not saying we are wrong to have things, only that we often place them above others. You don’t have to feel guilty for having much as long as you give much.
You might be asking, “So then is it okay to seek happiness? I would say no. I would say seek joy and contentment with who you are and what you already have. Build on your relationships with others. If you can do that and show others how to do that also, you will find happiness.
What brings you joy? Share your story! What better way to teach others how to find joy than to share how we have obtained it?