I found myself singing “Joy To The World” this morning (just that line – I don’t know the rest of the lyrics), and it got me thinking about what the word “joy” means to me – and how it differs from “happiness”.

Happiness is on a continuum. It’s constantly changing, but it’s always there. At any time of day, you can measure how happy (or unhappy) you are. It never leaves you.

Joy, on the other hand, is like a precious jewel. A snapshot of a moment in time, to be savoured while it lasts – because it quickly passes.

May every day be filled with moments of joy

Joy is surveying a beautiful scene or a piece of art that takes my breath away. Or it’s listening to a haunting piece of music that sends chills down my spine. It’s intense and glorious.

And it works just as well when I imagine or recall these moments as when they happen in real life.

The other difference between joy and happiness is that happiness is a personal responsibility. It’s a choice. You choose to be either unhappy or happy, and you can’t “make” someone happy.

You can, however, bring joy.


When I survey a scene – like the view from a window overlooking the terracotta roofs of Florence, or Tower Bridge in London – or when I listen to a piece of music, it’s a gift to me from the person who created it.

They didn’t know that I would be looking at it or listening to it. They created it anyway. But had they not created it, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to experience its magnificence.

And this makes me realise that every single one of us has the capacity to bring joy to another person – for no reason other than to do it. And it fills my heart with joy just thinking about it!

(article first published on 30th November 2013 on The Calm Space, a website belonging to my friend Káren Wallace)

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