Beyond “Happiness”: 10 Ways to Increase Joy

Beyond Happiness-10 Ways to Increase Joy; www.DrChristinaHibbert.comWe all want to “be happy,” don’t we? We want to feel well, have good times, and enjoy life. Certainly, happiness is a good thing.

We may feel happy when things go our way, when we get an unexpected surprise, or experience a moment of beauty. But in the same instant, happiness can vanish, because happiness is an emotion, a transient state of feeling.


Beyond “Happiness”

Instead, don’t we really want joy? Joy is deeper and more lasting. It’s not simply an emotion. “Joy…unlike happiness, is a state of being. We can be faced with challenges, situations, and life stress and still be joyful. Even when we don’t feel happy, we can be full of joy. ” (This is How We Grow, p. 335)


We can wait around to feel happy, or we can try to feel happy. Again, it’s not a bad thing to try and feel happy. However, most of society focuses on how to be “happier” by looking outside–by chasing happiness through trying to be more successful, beautiful, talented, by finding the perfect relationship, or simply by trying to have more fun. While these things can certainly bring feelings of happiness, unfortunately, those feelings don’t always last. 


Joy, on the other hand, comes from within. That’s why, even when circumstances change, joy remains. It is lasting, or can be, if practiced and cultivated.


Discovering & Uncovering Joy

Joy is a natural part of each of us. It comes from deep within, from our very soul. Unlike happiness, which is often situational or emotionally-based, joy is part of who we really are. I know, I know, some of you won’t believe what I’m saying here, but it’s true: Joy is part of who you are. It’s there, inside each of us, always. It’s just that life covers it up, so we can’t feel it. Think of joy as the sun and life stressors as the clouds and storms. Joy, like the sun, is always there; the trick is to dig beneath the cloudiness and uncover it.


10 Ways to Increase Joy

How can we uncover and increase our joy? Here are a few ideas to get us started.


1) Take good care of your body. Sleep, nutrition, exercise, and down time are all important to increasing joy, for they keep your body physically healthy and strong. When you’re too tired, for instance, joy will definitely feel more clouded. If you want more joy in your life, you have to take care of your body first and foremost.


2) Practice mindfulness.  Mindfulness involves paying attention to life as it happens–paying attention to now. Breathe deeply and look around you. Use all your senses to take in your world. Look for and see the good. Feel and breathe through the not-so-good. As we focus on the present moment, on the beauty around us, the love that is ours for the taking, we experience an increase of joy. (Read this for more ideas: Daily Mindfulness: 5 Ways to Put More “Being” Into What You’re “Doing”)


3) Cultivate healthy relationships. We are social beings, and relationships are a huge part of living a life of joy. Sure, our relationships might make us feel “happy” (and hopefully they do), but even more importantly, healthy relationships increase joy. By “healthy” I mean relationships based on unconditional love, where each person is free to be him or herself. Relationships that are encouraging, accepting, and honest. Or, this definition of love is a good way to define a healthy relationship: “The ability and willingness to allow those that you care for to be what they choose for themselves, without any insistence that they satisfy you.” (Dr. Wayne Dyer, Your Erroneous Zones) That is a relationship that will increase joy. (More on creating healthy relationships: 50 Ways to Love Your Loved Ones; 17 Secrets for Making Marriage Work; The Reconsideration Exercise; The 5 Love Languages)


4) Serve. Getting out of our own “problems” and “feelings” is one of the surest ways to increase joy. Volunteer for a cause that’s important to you. Make dinner for a friend in need. Watch a young mother’s children so she can get a break. Or, lend a listening ear to someone in need. Even helping a stranger carry groceries or smiling to everyone throughout your day will help joy shine deep within you.


5) Choose to grow. When hard times hit, instead of dwelling on how “bad” things are, see the opportunity for growth. Work on changing negative thoughts throughout the day, seeing each experience as a learning moment. Even if situations get particularly tough, if you can look at them through lenses of “growth,” you will still be able to tap into and feel moments of joy, and that will help you get through your hard times more smoothly and increase your joy in the long run. (For more, check out: 10 Ways I Choose to Grow Each Day; The Seasons of Personal Growth; This Is How We Grow Book; Join my “This is How We Grow” Personal Growth Group)


6) Play and enjoy life. We can take a lesson from kids, who not only are great at playing, but who still seem to feel and

A gorgeous view from my recent trip to Hawaii. Both relaxing and playing, I love to travel. Brings the joy right out of me!

A gorgeous view from my recent trip to Hawaii. Both relaxing and playing, I love to travel. Brings the joy right out of me!

thrive in their innate joy! Most adults could use a little more play and enjoyment in their lives. What lights you up? Makes you laugh? Helps you forget about “life” for a while? Those things are incredibly important in living a life of joy. When we’re playing, our joy is suddenly uncovered again; it reminds us of how much joy we truly have! Get out and do something fun today. Laugh. Roll on the floor in laughter. Play. And enjoy life while you’ve got it.


7) Let love in. Too often, we block the love we could otherwise receive–from our loved ones, from ourselves, and even from God. Feeling God’s love for us and the love of those around us is crucial to a life of joy. However, it’s hard to let others love us if we struggle to love ourselves. Do you block love? Do you know how to open up and receive it freely? Do you love yourself? If not, this is the area that needs your attention. (Here are some ideas to help you get started: Discovering Self-Worth: Why is it so Hard to Love Ourselves?; Self-Esteem & Self-Worth; Learning Self-Love; 5 Reasons Self-Esteem is a Myth; The Mind-Body-Spirit Connection; If Self-Esteem is a Myth, then What is the Truth? Understanding Self-Worth.)


8) Practice smiling on purpose. Putting your body in a state of joy helps bring the joy out of you. Smile. Even when you don’t feel like it–smile. Especially when you don’t feel like it. Focus on the good in your life. Remind yourself there is joy somewhere inside and try to let it show on your face. Try to say and do cheerful things. Trust me, practicing cheerfulness, on purpose, is a great way to increase joy each day.


9) Focus on joy. Make it your goal, or a yearly theme. Pay attention to how joy shows up in your life and to what covers up your joy. Practice strategies to bring the joy back out. Remind yourself often, “I am uncovering my joy. It’s in there, and I’m feeling it more each day.”


10) Get still. Often we miss our joy because we’re just too busy. Slowing down, listening, and getting in tune with our spiritual sides, with God, and with our true selves increases our capacity for feeling joy, and reminds us there is much more to life than tuning out and staying busy. It helps us reconnect with the things that matter most and discover our purpose and greater meaning in life. Some of the greatest moments of joy come only when we are quiet enough to feel them.



What are your thoughts on happiness and joy? What increases your experience of joy? Share your insights with us by leaving a comment, below!

For more on Discovering Joy, be sure to check out my bestselling book,

#1 Amazon Bestseller, This Is How We Grow, by Dr. Christina Hibbert, Available now on! www.ThisIsHowWeGrow.comThis is How We Grow:

A psychologist’s memoir of loss, motherhood, and discovering self-worth and joy, one season at a time.

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About Dr. Christina Hibbert

Clinical Psychologist, Mom of 6, Postpartum Couples DVD Producer, Non-Profit Founder, and expert on Parenting, Women’s Emotions, Pregnancy & Postpartum, and Grief & Loss, Dr. Christina Hibbert loves songwriting, learning, and teaching what she learns. She really hopes you’ll join the Personal Growth Group and choose to grow together!


  1. One of the most attractive aspects of your site is the simplicity with which you present a topic. Joy is really that simple. Sometimes our lives cloud our minds so much that the simple joy within cannot be seen or felt. Make no mistake, it is still there. It is these times we need to stop for a moment, take a deep breath and clear the path for our joy to come forward. It is really that simple; ask and you shall receive.

  2. Many of my clients share, “I’ll be happy when I weigh x.” They truly believe their emotional state is contingent on a certain size. Their joy is so often put on hold, waiting to reach a goal weight, before feeling worthy or open to living life fully in their “here and now body.” I regularly coach clients to add purpose and joyful living, your post will be a wonderful resource to many of my clients (and friends). Thank you, again! I appreciate your work and wisdom.

    • Thank you very much, Jamie! I appreciate you bringing up the “I will be happy when…x” dynamic. It’s so rampant, I agree, and so false. I love that you help clients open to the “here and now.” So important for finding true joy. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  3. Janine Engesser says:

    Thank you for sharing this precious article Dr. Hibbert!

    In mindfulness, as you wrote, can bring happiness into your life. And this has greatly changed my life. I’ve taken Eckhart Tolle’s course and since I began focusing my awareness on my energy body and my breathing, I feel, before I’ve wasted so much joy in life. (For your ref. from Marko’s post

    I’m curious; How do you practice being present?


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