The difference between happiness and joy

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At first glance, we might think that happiness and joy are the same thing.  Both make us feel good, both are qualities that we seek.  In fact, embedded in the United States Constitution is the inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness.

In reality, though, I would argue that the two are quite different both in quality and in their effect on our human lives.  Happiness is a feeling, an emotion – a sense of pleasure and contentment. Happiness comes to us when we feel that life is worth living; that the circumstances in our lives have manifested in a way to generate a feeling that life is good.  The astrological correlation for this sensation is Jupiter – the Greater Benefic, the planet that helps to activate these good feelings of abundance and confidence and which often brings about actual good luck and good fortune.  Venus, the Lesser Benefic, is also involved in good feelings in its role as the seeker of pleasure, love and beauty.

Though a dictionary might say that joy is a synonym for happiness, they have a different quality.  Where happiness is based upon life circumstances and events that are good rather than bad, joy is an inner experience that springs from the heart and the soul.  Happiness comes and goes depending on our circumstance; joy arises from the soul when we feel completely aligned in our sense of Self.

Joy is defined in dictionaries as being synonymous with exultation, jubilation, exhilaration, elation, euphoria, bliss, rapture – sensations that activate a higher perspective than mere happiness and require a turning away from attachment to the things that come and go.  To me, this is represented by the full and complete activation of the Sun sign.

Sun signs have been overemphasized in popular astrology, but they tend to be underemphasized in modern astrology.  By this I mean that in popular astrology so-called “horoscopes” it is assumed that from your Sun sign all kinds of things can be predicted when this is simply not true – the whole chart must be considered.  But as we modern astrologers minimize the role of the Sun sign in order to consider the chart as a whole, we sometimes lose sight of the fact that the Sun represents the Self in its present incarnation.  The Sun prescribes the activities that will bring the individual the most joy and sense of purpose during the lifetime. This is also true for the fifth house which is associated with the Sun, the ruler of that house in the individual chart, and planets that live in the fifth house.

Joy emanates from the heart, and the physical heart is ruled by the Sun.  (The emotional heart is associated by the Moon which symbolizes the emotions which come and go rather than the ineffable joy that comes from knowing who we truly are.)  Creativity and self-expression are also ruled by the Sun, and it is often through the process of creating that we find that inner joy which goes beyond circumstance.  When the heart is closed it is difficult for joy to blossom, but a practice of gratitude opens the heart and nurtures the bloom of inner joy.

When we have fully embodied the personal quest told by the story of the astrological Sun, that inner sense of joy will permeate everything we do.  Happiness will still come and go, but the joy inherent in the inner awakening of the Self will be strong and certain.

By | 2018-04-12T11:34:37+00:00 April 12th, 2018|Inspiration, Life|17 Comments


  1. Gina April 12, 2018 at 11:45 am - Reply

    Thanks Lynn! ‘Happiness’ & ‘Joy’ really get tossed around casually in our common language. I appreciate your perspective with making an important distinction. One question though, could Neptune be a part of connecting with ‘Joy’ or is it unreliable? Does that make sense? Just wondering. So our Sun Sign is connected to the ‘Joy’ of our essence? I can see where this could get messy!

    • April 12, 2018 at 12:16 pm - Reply

      That’s a good question Gina. Neptune is an outer planet and while the outer planets inspire us and evoke transformation and change, they aren’t part of the makeup of the personality. So Neptune inspires the bliss of merging with the divine, that sense of losing one’s Self into the greater cosmos, but that isn’t really part of the personal experience. That’s my take, anyway. 🙂

  2. Gina April 12, 2018 at 1:38 pm - Reply

    Thanks Lynn! But what if Neptune is in square to your Sun or other personal planet? Are lessons part of our personality?

    • Gina April 12, 2018 at 1:41 pm - Reply

      Whoops! One other question;l can’t a person have pronounced Neptunian traits, Uranian or Plutonian?

      • April 12, 2018 at 1:58 pm - Reply

        Yes, of course. But this occurs when an outer planet closely aspects something in the natal chart, thereby activating the outer planet qualities in the personality. For example, if you have Uranus in Cancer in the second house that doesn’t by itself denote a Uranian personality. But Uranus on the ascendant, or aspecting a personal planet, would lend a Uranian quality especially if that is echoed somewhere else in the chart. For example, Uranus conjunct the Sun in Aquarius, or Uranus conjunct the Sun in any sign in the 11th house which is associated with Uranus (modern associations).

      • April 12, 2018 at 1:58 pm - Reply

        These are great questions Gina!

    • April 12, 2018 at 1:55 pm - Reply

      I would say that if an outer planet is aspecting a personal planet those issues become a part of our process. The outer planets provide inspiration, motivation, transformation.

  3. Gina April 12, 2018 at 3:50 pm - Reply

    Thanks Lynn for answering my questions!

  4. Lisa Simpson April 12, 2018 at 11:15 pm - Reply

    Great article Lynn.

    I’m Virgo(19)with Cancer(25) moon. I really am good with myself. I have Uranus(25) square my moon natally(exact). I am extremely sensitive, but it doesn’t get out of control. At least I don’t act that way. (Just for the last two years, ive been acting’s been really really difficult. Can’t wait for Uranus to move on!). But as a whole, I am at peace with myself, I know I know my own soul.

    • April 13, 2018 at 8:28 am - Reply

      Hi Lisa, so Uranus is in Libra – you’re going through one of the 21 year Uranus cycles with transiting Uranus squaring your Moon/Uranus square. A very Uranian time of change! So much of how we behave depends on the ascendant.

  5. Robyn April 13, 2018 at 8:53 am - Reply

    I’m curious. Can a person with their Natal Sun conjunct Pluto and Mercury in Leo in the 8th House find joy? What would that kind of joy be like, if our Sun leads us to our joy?

  6. April 13, 2018 at 9:41 am - Reply

    Robyn, I would like to think that everyone can find true joy. My Moon is conjunct Pluto in Leo and I have found joy, although any Plutonic chart is going to have its challenges. Yours, with the Sun conjunct Pluto in the 8th is certainly Plutonic, meaning you will always be needing to let go to the wisdom of the Universe and your higher self to guide you in the direction that is best for you. The Sun in Leo NEEDS a joyful experience of life, and will keep guiding you in that direction. Do you have Sagittarius or Capricorn rising?

    • Robyn April 13, 2018 at 9:50 am - Reply

      Sagittarius rising. Mars, and Moon are Trine Pluto/Sun/Mercury.

      • April 15, 2018 at 7:33 am - Reply

        That Sag rising is a big help as long as it doesn’t keep you from fully inhabiting the intensity of the Moon/Pluto.

  7. aparna paranjape April 16, 2018 at 1:29 am - Reply

    Hello sir, i want to thank you for your most valuable guidance which saved my life literally…..i got step by step guidance as per daily planetary positions…my date of birth 16/10/1966 you can understand my experiences i really experienced uranus pluto square…….all your writings are heart touching intuitive which provide TRUTH. And the fact is truth sets us free which must be the aim of every soul……you guided me for the searching of real purpose of my life through my darkest days of life. I SAW THE BLACKEST SO CAN ENJOY THE SMALLEST OF RAY OF LIGHT. You are that true guide….i want to be in debt of your teachings i mean it………thanks a lot

    • April 17, 2018 at 6:57 am - Reply

      I’m so glad this work is helpful for you, Aparna. ❤️

  8. […] sign Leo is ruled by the Sun, and if I may quote myself from this article: Joy emanates from the heart, and the physical heart is ruled by the Sun.  Creativity and […]

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