Do You Need an Injection of Happiness and Joy?

What is happiness, and how do we get it?

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Are you satisfied with life, or do you need an injection of happiness and joy?

Try this short test by Dr. Ed Diener, aka ‘Dr. Happiness’. Rate each statement between 1 and 7, with 7 being the highest score.

  • In most ways my life is close to my ideal.
  • The conditions of my life are excellent.
  • I am satisfied with life.
  • So far I have gotten the important things I want in life.
  • If I could live my life over, I would change almost nothing.

Now add them up, for your total score. Denier’s criteria indicate that a score of 35 = complete satisfaction, 5 = dissatisfaction and 20 was average. So, how did you score in life satisfaction?

Of course, it depends on your state of mind when you do the test. Whether you are happy right now, or you have just had an overwhelmingly stressful day makes a difference. However, it will have got you thinking about how you're feeling about your life, and what might be missing?

I Just Want to Be Happy!

Most of us want ourselves and our families to live happy and healthy lives. So, the biggest question of all is, what is happiness, and how do we get it?

Happiness and joy are often thought of as one and the same. Yet they differ in their experience, and so even though this might be our aim in life, the truth can often look different to what we imagine.

Joy is something you experience as an intense reaction to something. I felt complete and utter joy when I was at a recent Queen concert in Tallinn, for example. Joy increases your capacity to appreciate the world that you are living in, and all its surroundings. Moments of joy are important.

Happiness on the other hand, is a state of well-being, where we feel in harmony and content. It lasts longer than joy. I feel happiness when I am writing, for example.

However, there can be positive and negative joy depending on your life history. Joy isn’t positive if you can only gain it through hurting someone else. Also, happiness can bring loneliness and despair. If you’ve felt happy whilst with a loved one, but now they are no longer here, then happiness can be linked with sadness and loss.

Whatever the connotations of the joy and happiness you might feel, the experience will leave you feeling connected to the world, and to others. It will give you a greater appreciation of life, and your place in it.

Where Do We Get This Greater Sense of Well-Being?

A connection to joy and happiness doesn’t have to exclude all your other emotions deemed ‘negative’, or ‘bad’. If you venture down the ‘positive coaching’ route it is often deemed that you can reach happiness and joy without too much self-awareness, or self-development. You’ll just need to think in a specific way, be grateful for everything and everyone, and send out love and light to the world, and it’ll surely come back in abundance, tenfold.

But can you compartmentalise your emotions, beliefs, past life experiences, and the everyday stresses of living, put them to one side, and then just be happy and think positively!?

That might lead to feeling somewhat of a fake, and is hard work to maintain.

In understanding ourselves we can explore what is holding us back from greater happiness and joy. Maybe it’s a past trauma, or your childhood was challenging, or your family didn’t have time for happiness.

Maybe you grew up with everyone pretending to be happy and you have just learned this way of being, or maybe you believe you don’t deserve to be happy. In looking into yourself, you can begin to understand and open yourself up to greater inner space for further happiness and joy.

Above all, there is plenty of room for the good, the bad, the ups and downs, joy and despair, happiness and sadness. We can only know happiness when we have been sad, and we can only know joy when we have felt despair.

What Helps Then?

Yes, look for things that make you happy and joyful and do more of them. Absolutely do less of the things that make you stressed and exhausted! Be less harsh on yourself, and ban thoughts like "I have nothing to be unhappy about", or "compared to others I have nothing to complain about."

But also remember that you feel how you feel, and know that happiness and joy are not one long continual experience. You’re not failing at life if you aren’t permanently jumping up and down with joy, content with all you are and have, a happy grin constantly slapped across your face.

Nobody experiences this permanence of bliss, if they were being really honest! And it’s okay … you are okay … happiness and joy will come around again. The surest way to feel happy now though is to get connected with yourself, who you are, able to accept that eternal happiness is not the answer, and that all of your feelings have a place in your life.

Wouldn't that feel good?


Dr Tom Barber

Dr Tom Barber has 25 years of experience as an Existential and Integrative Psychotherapist, helping people through a vast array of difficulties. As well as being a bestselling author, his research interests include the study of emotion, and addiction. Tom teaches workshops and lectures throughout the world, and has gained international acclaim for his contributions to psychology, and psychotherapy.