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In the Year 2023, Trina Is Deliberately Choosing Joy vs. Happiness. What’s the Difference, You Ask? Check Out Her Answer Here

By Trina O’Quinn for the NABBW

I spoke often about grief and loss in 2022. I also covered journaling and the different types of journaling as the way I chose to listen to my inner self. I used it to figure out what was bothering me and what to do about it. This year I will continue to use my journal for that purpose, while adding gratitude and joy as this year’s focus. Why did I choose gratitude? I chose it because it is my pathway to joy. Joy is going to be my word of the year.

Trina with her Mother

For me, the year 2022 was one of deep loss. January 2, 2022, I was with my mother when she passed, and my husband and I buried her alongside my dad. I also lost four longtime friends. One I knew 76 years, one 70, one 59 years and the last 58 years. I have taken the year to morn and now it is time to send love to my grief and move forward.

Every year the artist Heather Stillufsen puts out two tasks for the new year: 1. A New Year’s Bucket List comprising of word completion sentences, and their answers are to become goals for the ensuing year, 2. The second is What is your word of the year? It is comprised of different words of emotions and thoughts. The task is to pick on word and focus on it each day for a year. This year the word “JOY” jumped off the page. I have started putting joy into my daily life. You might ask why not happiness? For the balance of this blog, I will explain the difference between joy and happiness and why I am choosing Joy.

Joy vs. Happiness

  1. Joy can transform a difficult task, or the way things are perceived. When I whistle, hum, or sing while doing a task I feel good while doing something that does not always create happiness. If I want to be happy doing something I dislike the task will not always be finished. I am a quilter and the part of quilting I dislike is cutting out the pattern. It includes math and using a rotary blade to cut. By cutting with my quilting partner, I have found joy and can get to the fun part of sewing the pieces together, layering the top, batting and back and then quilting binding and sewing on the finished label.
  2. When I am experiencing joy, I am not concerned with happiness. I am having fun, laughing, and smiling. I am willing to have a conversation with people in my proximity. At the minimum I smile at them, and they speak in turn. If I pursue happiness I am only friendly when I am happy. When I am unhappy or troubled, I turn into myself and hide from others. I disconnect and become a hermit. I begin isolating where if I am feeling joy, I can be unhappy about something and still feel joy inside. Things do not have to be perfect for me to reach out, connect and be social.
  3. Sometimes when I’m going through difficult times, I can find joy in the things I enjoy, and it gives me strength to move forward. If I am trying to feel happy when going through difficult times, the act feels as if I am trying to deny or resist my feelings. I turn my anger inward and the depression that follows stops me in my tracks.
  4. Joy comes from deep within myself, happiness depends on external people, places, things, and events.
  5. Joy comes from doing what is right, happiness comes for the approval of others.
  6. Joy is self-sufficient, one can depend on themselves to feel capable of taking care or oneself. Happiness depends on others and robs one of their self-sufficiencies.
  7. Joy is the prism through which I look at the world. It is a state of mind and being. Happiness is an emotion and passes through one’s being.
  8. Joy lasts a long time-Happiness passes through on the way to the next emotion. If I can find joy in a situation the feeling will stay as it comes from within.
  9. Joy is a stable state of being. Since joy stays longer than happiness and creates self-sufficiency it put a foundation under my feet and peace within my being.
  10. Joy helps give one purpose and the ability to move forward. Happiness is a feeling. It does not serve the purpose of moving forward. When I chase happiness, I stay sad or depressed much longer.
  11. Joy helps me find myself. Since joy comes from within it is a clue to who I am. Happiness is an outside force that tells me more about places, people, and things.
  12. Joy helps me appreciate and stay in the present. Since Joy comes from within and the here and now it shows me how to enjoy where I am when I am there. It also helps me to enjoy what I am doing when I am doing it. Happiness keeps me looking back to the past or ahead to the future. Which cause either depression or anxiety.
  13. Joy is my key to a peaceful life. When I look for joy in my everyday living, I begin to feel clam, peaceful, content, happy and looking forward to each day. Happiness is not the key as it is a fleeting feeling. Anything that goes wrong will send it moving into disappointment, anxiety, and possible depression.

To begin 2023 in the spirit of joy and excellence I am taking the month to set the tone for the upcoming year. I will be thinking about following three questions and will answer them in my next blog:

  1. What are you most proud of from 2022?
  2. What were some of your biggest challenges in 2022? Write about how these moments helped you grow.
  3. How have you changed over the last year? How can you celebrate this new version of yourself?

You might want to think about these questions during the coming month and see if you begin to feel joy.

Until next time, peace and joy


Before she retired, Trina O’Quinn was an actively licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Entering the profession as an older adult, Trina was in private practice for 30 years. During her career she was a lecturer at California University Dominguez Hills in the Marital and Family Therapy Program, where she supervised many students and mentored many associates.

Now retired from counseling, Trina keeps busy enjoying needle arts, reading, Journaling and writing, as well as singing with a women’s chorus, peer networking, volunteering at a senior living center and reconnecting with old friends. 


NABBW Contributing Author

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