This is an article that I've been putting off writing because whenever people talk about ways to be happy it makes me throw up in my mouth a little. But this reframe in my thought process has been very helpful to me, so I feel compelled to share.
Like many American's, I like the way happiness feels and I've spent a lot of my life pursuing happiness. Sadly, I've learned through trial and error that going about life this way doesn't seem to make me happy. Despite this, I occasionally find myself repeating the disappointing process, and I'm guilty of 'just wanting to be happy' in one moment and in the next I'm flying across the country to chase down something that feels like happiness. Something like a party, a spontaneous vacation, or a commission. These endeavors feel good for a while, but in the end they leave me feeling worse off. I find this incredibly frustrating! I am doing my best to live up to something our founding fathers wrote into the Declaration of Independence, and in doing so, I am ending up miserable.
Thankfully, I am starting to understand my misguided obsession (and subsequent disappointments) with the pursuit of happiness might be coming from me taking the expression too literally. I think going after the feeling of happiness - pretty much anything that releases endorphins - is very different than making decisions where a joyous state of being can naturally ensue. In other words, I'm realizing that although they are often used interchangeably, there may be a very important difference between the terms happiness and joy.
I like the word joy because, unlike happiness which feels very fleeting, joy seems to imply a lasting state of contentment that can be built upon and evolve throughout a lifetime. I also think that by referring to joy as a state of being instead of a feeling, it transforms the word, solidifying it somehow, and it becomes a mindset we can hold onto during the swing of feelings we will experience throughout our lives. From this perspective, one can have any number of feelings - happy or sad, engaged or bored, in love or in pain - and still be living joyously.
It seems like what leads to joy is different from person to person. Your passions and surrounding communities are great places to explore, and I think the best place to start honing in on a joyful state of mind is to turn inward. I am a huge believer in intuition, and if you're like me, there is a voice inside of your head talking to you all of the time. The voice can occasionally be annoying, but it has your best interests at heart and is going to be the first one to speak up about what we should do in a given situation. Something that has been very helpful to me is changing the way I communicate with myself. During my internal dialogues I stop asking the question 'what will make me feel happy today?' and replace it with 'what choices can I make today so I will continue to be in a state of joy tomorrow?'