The Differences Between Happiness and Joy — and Why You Need Both in 2023

Dr. Kevin Gazzara
5 min readJan 30, 2023
Joy and Happiness

Understanding the Differences Between Joy and Happiness

Happiness and joy are often used interchangeably, but they are actually distinct emotions with some important differences. Here is a closer look at the differences between joy and happiness, based on research.

Happiness is generally considered to be a longer-lasting emotion that can be sustained over time, while joy is typically more fleeting and intense (Tugade & Fredrickson, 2004). While Joy is often described as a more intense and powerful emotion than happiness, and it may be accompanied by physical sensations such as goosebumps or tears (Fredrickson, 2018). Happiness is often the result of fulfilling our needs and desires, while joy can be triggered by unexpected or surprising events (Fredrickson, 2018).

The Importance of Both Happiness and Joy

Research has shown that happiness is associated with prosocial behaviors, such as helping others and being more cooperative (Lyubomirsky & Lepper, 1999). Joy, on the other hand, has been linked to increased risk-taking and more exploratory behavior (Fredrickson, 2018). Both happiness and joy have been linked to increased well-being and life satisfaction (Lyubomirsky, King, & Diener, 2005). However, some research suggests that joy may be more strongly associated with overall well-being, as it is often accompanied by feelings of excitement and a sense of being fully alive (Fredrickson, 2018).

Dissecting the Benefits of Happiness and Joy

Happiness is a state of well-being and contentment that can have a positive impact on both our personal and professional lives. Joy is a positive emotion that can bring happiness and a sense of well-being to our lives. Here are several reasons why happiness and joy are so important, supported by research:

1. Improved physical health: A review of over 200 studies found that happier and more joyful people have a lower risk of developing various health problems, including cardiovascular disease (Friedman & Booth-Kewley, 1987). Another study found that happier people have stronger immune systems and are less likely to get sick (Cousins, 1989).

2. Increased productivity: Research has shown that happier and more joyful people tend to be more motivated and productive at work (Lyubomirsky, King, & Diener, 2005). In a study of call center employees, those who reported higher levels of happiness also had higher levels of productivity (Boehm & Lyubomirsky, 2008).

3. Better relationships: Being happy and joyful can lead to better relationships with others. A study found that happy and more joyful people have more and stronger social connections, which can provide support and a sense of belonging (Diener, Tay, & Oishi, 2013).

4. Enhanced creativity: Happiness and joy have been linked to increased creativity and problem-solving abilities (Isen, Daubman, & Nowicki, 1987). In a study of business students, those who were induced to feel happy showed higher levels of creativity on a problem-solving task (Isen & Reeve, 2005).

5. Increased life satisfaction: Ultimately, being happy with moments of joy can lead to greater life satisfaction and overall well-being (Lyubomirsky, King, & Diener, 2005). A review of over 150 studies found that happiness is associated with increased satisfaction with various aspects of life, such as work, relationships, and health (Lyubomirsky, Sheldon, & Schkade, 2005).

There are many ways to cultivate happiness and joy in our lives, including practicing gratitude, engaging in activities that bring joy, and surrounding ourselves with positive people (Lyubomirsky, King, & Diener, 2005). Taking steps to prioritize our happiness and seeking joyful experiences can have a ripple effect on all aspects of our lives, and it is worth the effort to cultivate it.

Want to Help Your Brain? Try These Practices:

Happiness Chemicals

In Summary

Happiness and joy are both positive emotions that can bring happiness and well-being to our lives. While they may have some overlap, they are distinct emotions that differ in their duration, intensity, cause, and impact on behavior and well-being. Taking steps to increase your opportunities to experience joy and sustain happiness may be one of the best time investments of your life. Change is hard, but the best time to start is today.

Dr. Kevin Gazzara — is a senior partner and founder of Magna Leadership Solutions, based in Phoenix, Arizona. He is the co-author of “The Leader of OZ” at and “Ready, Set, Get Hired”. He is an international speaker and recognized as a Management & Leadership Expert and an ICF and Positive Intelligence certified Executive Coach. Kevin has been a professor at 6 Universities developing and teaching programs to help others achieve their full potential.

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Thank you,
Dr. Kevin Gazzara
Senior Partner at Magna Leadership Solutions and Certified Positive Intelligence ICF Coach


Boehm, J. K., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2008). Does happiness influence productivity? Journal of Happiness Studies, 9(3), 431–445.

Cousins, N. (1989). Anatomy of an illness as perceived by the patient: Reflections on healing and regeneration. Norton.

Diener, E., Tay, L., & Oishi, S. (2013). Rising income and the subjective well-being of nations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 104(2), 267–276.

Fredrickson, B. L. (2018). Love 2.0: How Our Supreme Emotion Affects Everything We Feel, Think, Do, and Become. Penguin.

Friedman, H. S., & Booth-Kewley, S. (1987). The “disease-prone personality”: A meta-analytic view of the construct. American Psychologist, 42(6), 539–555.

Isen, A. M., & Reeve, J. (2005). The influence of positive affect on intrinsic and extrinsic motivation: Facilitating enjoyment of play, responsible work behavior, and self-control. Motivation and Emotion, 29(3), 297–325.

Isen, A. M., Daubman, K. A., & Nowicki, G. P. (1987). Positive affect facilitates creative problem solving. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52(6), 1122–1131.

Lyubomirsky, S., & Lepper, H. S. (1999). A measure of subjective happiness: Preliminary reliability and construct validation. Social Indicators Research, 46(2), 137–155.

Lyubomirsky, S., King, L., & Diener, E. (2005). The benefits of frequent positive affect: Does happiness lead to success? Psychological Bulletin, 131(6), 803–855.

Tugade, M. M., & Fredrickson, B. L. (2004). Resilient individuals use positive emotions to bounce back from negative emotional experiences



Dr. Kevin Gazzara

CEO of Magna Leadership Solutions, Certified ICF &Positive Intelligence Coach, Management Expert, Professor, Speaker, Author. Contact: