The Difference Between Happiness and Joy

Staying vulnerable in an age of cruelty.

Happiness usually involves a victory for the self. Joy tends to involve the transcendence of self. Happiness comes from accomplishments. Joy comes when your heart is in another. Joy comes after years of changing diapers, driving to practice, worrying at night, dancing in the kitchen, playing in the yard and just sitting quietly together watching TV. Joy is the present that life gives you as you give away your gifts.

The core point is that happiness is good, but joy is better. It’s smart to enjoy happiness, but it’s smarter still to put yourself in situations where you might experience joy.

People receive joy after they have over-invested in their friendships. The thing the wisest people say about friendship is this: Lovers stand face to face staring into each other’s eyes. But friends stand side by side, staring at the things they both care about. Friendship is about doing things together. So people build their friendships by organizing activities that are repeated weekly, monthly or annually: picnics, fantasy leagues, book clubs, etc.

They say that love is blind, but the affection friends have for each other is the opposite of blind. It is ferociously attentive. You are vulnerable, and your friend holds your vulnerability. He pauses, and you wait for him. You err, and she forgives.

“You will be loved,” the Italian novelist Cesare Pavese wrote, “the day when you will be able to show your weakness without the other person using it to assert his strength.”

Transparency is the fuel of friendship. We live in an age of social media. It’s very easy to create false personas and live life as a performance.

We live in a cruel time, when people attack you when they see a hint of vulnerability. So, it’s extra important to stick with emotional honesty even after people take advantage of your vulnerability to inflict pain. Vulnerability is the only means we have to build relationships, and relationships are the only means we have to experience joy.

My friend Catherine Bly Cox observed that when her first daughter was born she realized she loved her more than evolution required. I love that phrase because it speaks to what is distinctly human, our complex and infinite caring for one another.

There are some things we do because biology demands it. There are some things we do to pay the rent. But material drives don’t explain the magic of our friendships and the way our soul sings when we watch loved ones glow.

Sometimes when you’re out with your friends, you taste a kind of effervescent joy. Several years ago, the writer Zadie Smith was dancing at a club with her friends when a song from A Tribe Called Quest came on. At that point, she wrote, “A rail-thin man with enormous eyes reached across a sea of bodies for my hand. He kept asking me the same thing over and over: You feeling it? I was. My ridiculous heels were killing me, I was terrified I might die, yet I felt simultaneously overwhelmed with delight that ‘Can I Kick It?’ should happen to be playing at this precise moment in the history of the world, and was now morphing into ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit.’ I took the man’s hand. The top of my head flew away. We danced and danced. We gave ourselves up to joy.”

When you have moments like that you realize there is magic in the world. You can’t create the magic intentionally, but when you are living at that deep affectionate level, it sometimes just combusts within you. A blaze of joy.

Want to raise successful kids? Harvard, MIT study says doing one thing at age 4 could make them happier and wealthier in life

Thanks to modern science, there are a number of effective — yet obvious — strategies to smart parenting. But last year, a group of researchers at MIT, Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania found that one of the best things parents can do for their children is to have frequent back-and-forth exchanges with them. 

The findings suggest that doing this at an early age (typically between ages 4 to 6) will help develop, foster and improve what is perhaps one of the most important skills that contribute to success in life: Communication.

What’s more, a number of studies have supported the idea that children with stronger communication skills are more likely to have healthier relationships, longer marriageshigher self-esteem and overall satisfaction in life.

.. We talk to our kids all the time — both directly and indirectly. “Sit here.” “Hurry, we’re going to be late.” “Great job!” “No, don’t do that.” “Alexa, read us a bedtime story.” The secret, however, is to have back-and-forth conversations.

For the study, researchers evaluated 36 children using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to identify the differences in how the brain responds to different conversational styles.

They found that the Broca’s area, a region of the brain that focuses on speech production and language processing, was much more active in children who engaged in more back-and-forth conversations. Children who had more activation in that region of the brain scored higher in tests of language, grammar and verbal reasoning skills.

“The really novel thing about our paper is that it provides the first evidence that family conversation at home is associated with brain development in children,” John Gabrieli, the senior author of the study, told MIT News. “It’s almost magical how parental conversation appears to influence the biological growth of the brain.”

.. Back in 1995, a landmark study found that children from higher-income families appeared to have much greater language and communication abilities, and it was thought to be correlated with the fact that those children were exposed to about 30 million more words during the first years of life, compared to children of lower-income families.

But findings from this recent study suggest that the “30 million word gap” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

The conversational turn-taking seems like the thing that makes a difference, regardless of socioeconomic status,” Gabrielli said. “Such turn-taking occurs more often in families from a higher socioeconomic status, but children coming from families with lesser income or parental education showed the same benefits from conversational turn-taking.”

The point isn’t to have deep philosophical conversations with your children, but to instead carry conversations that require back-and-froth dialogue.

It’s not difficult to make that leap, and they’ll benefit in significant ways in the long run; interactive conversations help improve communication skills as a whole, and that’s a necessity for success in any future career. When it comes to your child’s success, maybe talk isn’t so cheap after all.

What 7 Creepy Patents Reveal About Facebook

Reading your relationships

One patent application discusses predicting whether you’re in a romantic relationship using information such as how many times you visit another user’s page, the number of people in your profile picture and the percentage of your friends of a different gender.

Classifying your personality

Another proposes using your posts and messages to infer personality traits. It describes judging your degree of extroversion, openness or emotional stability, then using those characteristics to select which news stories or ads to display.

Another proposes using your posts and messages to infer personality traits. It describes judging your degree of extroversion, openness or emotional stability, then using those characteristics to select which news stories or ads to display.

Predicting your future

This patent application describes using your posts and messages, in addition to your credit card transactions and location, to predict when a major life event, such as a birth, death or graduation, is likely to occur.

Identifying your camera

Another considers analyzing pictures to create a unique camera “signature” using faulty pixels or lens scratches. That signature could be used to figure out that you know someone who uploads pictures taken on your device, even if you weren’t previously connected. Or it might be used to guess the “affinity” between you and a friend based on how frequently you use the same camera.

Listening to your environment

This patent application explores using your phone microphone to identify the television shows you watched and whether ads were muted. It also proposes using the electrical interference pattern created by your television power cable to guess which show is playing.

This patent application explores using your phone microphone to identify the television shows you watched and whether ads were muted. It also proposes using the electrical interference pattern created by your television power cable to guess which show is playing.

Tracking your routine

Another patent application discusses tracking your weekly routine and sending notifications to other users of deviations from the routine. In addition, it describes using your phone’s location in the middle of the night to establish where you live.

Inferring your habits

This patent proposes correlating the location of your phone to locations of your friends’ phones to deduce whom you socialize with most often. It also proposes monitoring when your phone is stationary to track how many hours you sleep.