Happiness All Around

Two years ago, I read an article about creating a “Happiness Jar” and decided that was a wonderful idea for me. I felt like I wasn’t always seeing the positives in my life as I should or could. So for one year, each night (almost) I would write down the date and at least one thing that brought me happiness that day. To make it easier, I put pre-cut papers, a pen, and a jar on my nightstand in order to help remind me to write each night. When I was on vacation, I set a reminder on my phone to email myself my daily happiness and then added those memories to the jar when I returned.

After the first month, I started looking forward to writing each night about the things that brought me happiness in my day. In all honesty, there were some days that I struggled to find even one thing. Especially when I would get caught up in the daily grind of work or a spiral of complaining about almost everything. Ever had those days or weeks? Where you get sucked down the rabbit hole of complaining when you’re in a bad mood or in the wrong company? This can easily happen when things are not going as you expect them to go or when you are up against frustrating obstacles. For example, if you are not enjoying the job you have, all you’ll do is complain. Then if you are surrounded by others who feel the same about their current career paths, it's even easier to get caught up in the complaining cycle, making the complaining seem almost normal.  

I feel if this type of daily negative thinking goes unchecked it could lead to negative emotional outcomes like dissatisfaction or even depression. I also feel it’s completely normal to have ups and downs in life and it is even healthy to be able to vent when you aren’t satisfied or share a complaint in order to find a solution. But if you feel most of your thoughts or conversations are complaints or negative, this activity might be just the thing for you to reset your thoughts and get back on the happiness track.

I mentioned that I looked forward to writing and putting my happy thoughts into my jar each night, even when I struggled I managed to find at least one thing to write down. At the end of one year on New Year’s Eve, I took out and read all the papers to my husband. Each and everyone brought a smile to my face as I relived that memory. Later that week, I read through the memories again and sorted them by subject and started to notice a pattern in my thoughts, especially during the times I struggled to find happiness. I noticed I was consistently happy with my yoga practice, my marriage, teaching yoga, travel, living overseas, and my health. I found happiness in small connections with people in my life and connecting with nature. I felt the days I had less “big” happy things to write about, those were the days I turned toward nature or kind gestures to find happiness.

I was able to reflect on where my happiness came from and areas that were missing from the jar.   I noticed those areas least mentioned were my current position at work in teaching and my family.  This realization made it easier to know I needed cultivate happiness in those areas. I knew these were the areas I complained about the most and needed to break that cycle and find a solution to find more happiness. That year of small, daily reflections helped me understand the areas I really needed to work on and started me on a new path.

I recently returned to the Happiness Jar project for 2018. I look forward to writing about the happiness each day brings to my life as my journey continues. I get the best feeling ending my day on a positive note and encourage you to give it a try, even if just for a month. There is happiness all around, we just need to pause and acknowledge where it is coming from and learn to cultivate more of that in our lives. What happiness will you notice today and on your journey forward?