“The joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives” -Russel M. Nelson

It’s common to get joy and happiness confused with each other—after all, they do trigger the same neurotransmitters in your brain. But there is a small difference between them. Happiness can be a fleeting feeling that comes in small doses. This can be someone bringing you coffee or finding $20 on the ground. Joy has more depth than happiness, and it can be enduring throughout your life. You can practice, cultivate, and make joy a habit. 

With joy in your heart, you’ll learn how to appreciate the small things in life. Researcher Barbara Frederickson created a “Broaden and Build” theory of joy which motivates you to play and connect with others. It helps you recover from negative states faster after you broaden your perspective. The basis of this theory is to build habits so you can experience joy in your everyday life. If you struggle with recognizing joyful moments, keep it in the back of your mind to look for them. Intentionally, mindfully, look for them.

At the end of a long day, we may mumble “Wow this day was not good, it was all-around horrible”. Except, for the most part, it may not be completely true. We may tend to generalize and highlight the negative.  Instead, shift the mindset and shed light on the positive, no matter how small.  There were sprinkles of joy that I may have failed to recognize. Like sharing lunch with my adult daughter who decided to spend her day with me, knocking off a task that I’ve been putting off, or simply, the luxury of having the time to quietly sit down to be.

This mindfulness of the present allows you to soak in what really matters. There is joy in that.  This season, when there is pressure to make the ‘perfect’ picture of, say, your holiday table setting, your menu, or your gift list, allow some time to pause.  Gain clarity and prioritize.  Brew items in your cart and come back to it after 7 days.  If you still want it, then hit check out.  There is joy too in an empty space without clutter.  Joy too perhaps, in knowing you have the means to purchase but decided not to because you realize, you do not need it.  

You will find joy in all those tasks, things, and moments because you are coming from a place of love and gratitude.  Acknowledge them when they occur and spend time to reflect on your day.  Tomorrow is not promised, so that is a cause for deep joy and gratitude. After all, gratefulness makes us joyful—it’s not the other way around. 

Start small.  Instead of thinking of a lifetime of joy, mindfully appreciate those that surround you now.  Shift the narrative to highlight the positive. Think of joy as our organic state. Find your inner peace and contentment. Remember, happiness is smiling when the sun is out, but joy is dancing in the rain.


Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. (CFP Board) owns the certification mark CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM and CFP® (with plaque design) in the United States, which it authorizes use of individuals who successfully complete CFP Board’s initial and ongoing certification requirements.
Marilyn Suey is a Registered Representative with, and securities and Retirement Plan Consulting Program advisory services offered through LPL Financial, a registered investment advisor, member FINRA/SIPC. Other advisory services are offered through Mariner Independent Advisor Network, LLC a Registered Investment Advisor. The Diamond Group Wealth Advisors and Mariner Independent Advisor Network, LLC are separate entities from LPL Financial.CA Insurance License #0E01981