Joy vs. Happiness

The definition of happiness is “the state of being happy.”

The definition of joy, however, is, “a deep-seated sense of well being.” In what I’ve discovered in my own journey to joy – and what I hope to offer through Playful Fitness – joy and happiness are often friends, but they aren’t synonyms.

Happiness is wonderful! We all want it (myself included) and we should celebrate when it comes! The downside of happiness is that, most often, it is based on the circumstances of our lives. It’s based on what happens in a day and/or in what we hope will happen in the future. That means when something doesn’t go the way we had imagined it would, happiness is quickly replaced by hopelessness, frustration, anger, anxiety… you fill in the blank for you.

Joy, on the other hand, comes from a deep-seated sense of well-being. Well-being is a deeper place in our hearts that is less affected (or not affected at all) by circumstances. Well-being looks like being secure in your skin and in your story, confident in who you are, knowing in the deepest parts of your heart that you are loved and valued. Joy comes from knowing your worth! In one line, happiness is a feeling, joy is a grounded, centered way of being. Y’all, I am still working on this. I have a LOT of joy and there are absolutely still places in me that aren’t yet settled and secure in who I am; and that’s ok!

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The joy I do have (and the joy I’m inviting you to discover through Playful Fitness) is the result of a multitude of daily choices. Choosing repeatedly to rise above how I feel about my circumstances and, instead, turn my focus to what is good, lovely, pure and whole. For me, getting moving and taking enormous delight in the beauty around me have been two of the greatest influencers in my ability to actually make the choice to rise above how I feel!

In this season of life especially, there are a large number of days I get home from teaching, after being at school for 9-10 hours, and I just feel low. I’m tired, exhausted, unhappy and the couch plus a bag of chips and chocolate sounds really good. On these days I have learned—with years of practice—to ask myself, “is this a night where joy will come with rest or is this a night where I need to go move through the frustration of my day and exchange it for joy?” Ninety percent of the time the answer is to go move! My husband would say the same thing and is often the extra push I need to get moving (I can’t emphasize enough the value of inviting a friend into your journey towards joy. Having someone else encourage you will only get you there faster!).

On days where I’m REALLY down and low on energy, I’ll start small. Sometimes I’ll set my goal as a walk around the block or a 5-minute abs workout video on Youtube. I can do anything for 5 minutes no matter how low I feel. Nearly without fail, as I start to move, light starts to creep back into my heat. Often my 5-minute abs video turns into a 30-minute dance party with intermittent squats and pushups in our tiny little home office. My walk will quickly turn into a skip and then a jog and then a full on run. By the end I am sweaty, thankful for my body that lets me move and reminded that I AM well! Moving breaks my focus on my funk and gives me breathing room to step back from the circumstances of my day/week/month and catch a glimpse of the bigger picture: that I’m loved, secure and have a lot to be grateful for. It also helps that movement pumps your brain full of endorphins, which are the happy hormone. Moving is hardwired in us as a nearly surefire way to change our mood.

One of the things I love most about joy is that it offers us an invitation to exchange our pain for something beautiful. Joy does not ask us to stuff our hurts or pretend we are “ok.” Instead, we get to show up exhausted, tired, frustrated and move through our hurts rather than staying stuck in them. Happiness requires perfection—the perfect day, the perfect spouse, the perfect job… But joy says, “Yeah, that day stunk! Come play anyway.”

Here’s where I think Playful Fitness has something different to offer in the health and fitness world.

Misery (the absence of happiness) only sticks around as long as we sit in it. Joy moves! Joy is vibrant and playful and offers us an invitation not to ignore our pain but instead to move through it, let it go and accept hope as an exchange. I’ve learned that when I feel stuck in misery, my two trump cards are to get moving and to get lost in the captivating beauty of whole foods. Most of the time when I’m stuck in a funk, I don’t feel like doing either of these. But I have years of experience and millions of choices under my belt that whisper to me, “go run, eat a strawberry and this will pass.” It nearly always works! It’s not an easy choice to go do something that is the absolute opposite of how I feel. And, I will say, after years of listening to that voice, I know the invitation is real. I’ve learned that joy and hope are available no matter how I feel at the start! Playful Fitness is an invitation to enter that exchange of frustration for joy, misery for hope, and end up fit and healthy in the process.

During the month of May I am going to offer a challenge that I’m simply calling, “For the Joy.” This challenge is open to anyone and everyone but I’m also creating it as a reboot in joy for myself. May will be my last month of this school year. To give a little texture, I’d say my first year teaching was the most challenging year of my life and this year (my 6th year of teaching) has been harder than my first year by about tenfold. This year has drained a lot of life out of me. I want more joy and I don’t want to wait for my circumstances to improve to get it. If that sounds like a spot you are in as well, join me in a month of turning up the dial on playing, delighting and choosing joy. I will post more information in the next several weeks about how you can participate with me in this challenge. For now, know that you are not alone! This year has stunk (for me) but I’m accepting the invitation to come play anyway!






Hally PaulsonComment