Joy and Happiness QUESTIONS

I was intrigued by a study mentioned here that suggests that people believe they would be happy if they only had 20% more money. Didn’t matter what their status: 20% seemed to be the most popular number.

At least until one gets to a point like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, when they actually not only start giving away their money, they encourage/cajole other billionaires to do the same.

So money, presumably, can make you happy. But does it bring you joy? I distinguish the two; to me, happiness is a more temporal thing. Joy is a state of being rather than a fleeting emotion. Weather with the high of 71F, with low humidity makes me happy; looking forward to tomorrow – not a specific tomorrow – but almost every tomorrow, brings me joy.

A particular song can make me happy, but music brings me joy, listening to it, singing it. The Mets winning the National League East would make me happy (ain’t happening THIS year); baseball, the intricacies of the sport, brings me joy. Sharing information definitely brings me joy.

I don’t know that Mother Teresa was happy living in squalor, but evidently, it brought her joy helping others. I think Gates and Buffett are experiencing joy giving away their money. I’ve read somewhere that, as a percentage of income, it is not the rich who are most generous donating to charities, it is those of the middle and lower economic levels who are more likely to help others. So the joy of helping others seems to trump the happiness of self, in some people, I gather.

People can take joy in God or money or family or nature or sex or Xbox, I reckon.

What makes you happy? What brings you joy?

Happy by the Rolling Stones
Being in love can make you happy.
Joy by Lucinda Williams
Losing one’s joy can be devastating

0 thoughts on “Joy and Happiness QUESTIONS”

  1. Roger – I love your distinction between happiness and joy. The examples you give make it crystal clear what the difference is. That said, I may not be able to come up with good examples from my own life without some more thought. But I’ll try. Meanwhile, let me stall by commenting on the 20% figure … if memory serves, this is up from a report I heard maybe 10 years ago in which the figure was 10%. So, in these depressed times, the price of happiness appears to have doubled!

    Now, my happiness versus my joy: Being in a good marriage makes me happy; being able to play basketball without a new injury at age 52 brings me joy – or is it the other way around? OK, I’ll try again. Being able to pay the monthly bills makes me happy. Seeing my niece and nephew meet their cousins for the first time and then proceed to play together like old friends all day brings me joy. There, that’s better, I think.

    One more thing: Money doesn’t make you happy (I went to expensive schools, and knew lots of miserable rich kids), but lack of money can definitely make you unhappy (not to mention dangerously angry). I agree with the evidence as demonstrated by Gates, Buffett et al: if you can afford to give away a lot of money, there is probably no greater joy – because you are then taking away a lot of other people’s unhappiness. Here’s to generous philanthropy at all levels!


  2. I like the distinctions you make between happiness and joy as well. I think we choose our terms without specificity, and throw them around carelessly. As a distraction? A smokescreen that is, at times, an anti-solution to whatever ails us?

    Interesting mentions here – including the fact that 20% more money would make most of us “happy” and the fact that middle to lower income people seem most comfortable giving. (I’ve witnessed that myself, and would put myself in that category.)

    And I agree completely with the gentleman who just commented – lack of money, especially prolonged, will squeeze the life out of you and of course, the moments of joy as well.


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