I received an interesting comment on my Choosing To Be Happy – No. 39 post on the difference between being happy or filled with joy. Those who have followed my blog for any length of time know that I am fascinated by the meaning of words. This simple comment by Mrs. AHC at Apple Hill Cottage sent me off on a mission of discovery. The first step in the mental journey was a trip to my favorite red dictionary to find the meaning of these two states of being…


happy: 1. delighted, pleased, or glad, as over a particular thing. 2. characterized by or indicative of pleasure, contentment, or joy.

joy: 1. the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something good or satisfying; keen pleasure. 2. a source of cause of keen pleasure or delight

These two definitions left me feeling a little less than happy or filled with joy because they created what is know as a circular reference, meaning that one refers to the other. Not one to run in circles, I went to another favorite dictionary, the Webster’s 1828. By using this dictionary, one can see how the meaning of words change over time:

happy: 1. lucky; fortunate; successful. 2. Being in the enjoyment of agreeable sensations from the possession of good; enjoying pleasure from the gratification of appetites or desires. The pleasurable sensations derived from the gratification of sensual appetites render a person temporarily happy; but he only can be esteemed really and permanently happy who enjoys peace of mind in the favor of God. To be in any degree happy we must be free from pain both of body and of mind; to be very happy we must be in the enjoyment of lively sensations of pleasure, either of body or mind. 3. Prosperous; having secure possession of good. 4. That supplies pleasure; that furnishes enjoyment; agreeable; applied to things; as a happy condition. 5. Dexterous; ready; able. 6. Blessed; enjoying the presence and favor of God, in a future life. 7. Harmonious; living in concord; enjoying the pleasures of friendship; as a happy family. 8. Propitious; favorable.

joy: 1. The passion or emotion excited by the acquisition or expectation of good; that excitement of pleasurable feelings which is caused by success, good fortune, the gratification of desire or some good possessed, or by a rational prospect of possessing what we love or desire; gladness; exultation; exhilaration of spirits. 2. Gayety; mirth; festivity. 3. Happiness; felicity. 4. A glorious and triumphant state. 5. The cause of joy or happiness. 6. A term of fondness; the cause of you.

Okay, so the Webster’s from 1828 could lead me down many paths of enlightenment concerning the definition of many different words used to describe the state of being happy or filled with joy. After studying these definitions, as well as my observations of those around me, what I see in the media and how our culture and society seeks happiness and joy, I have concluded that happiness is an extension of the inner joy that we choose in life. Many times we try to convince ourselves that if we just had more money or time we could find happiness. My experiences in the past seven years have taught me that happiness and joy can come out of a life changing event. It all comes down to how we view what is happening and our choice as to how we embrace the change. We can choose to be happy in each moment. Then our inner joy will be free to be happy in life with its many ups and downs.

Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.
~ Mother Teresa ~