The happiness project
Photo by Tara Fitzgerald
I needed an attitude adjustment.
I'd been sad, I mean heartbroken, deep in your bones sad, for too long. A few years ago I let negative emotions damage my health and my spirit. I was literally sick and tired of being sick and tired. I needed to find happiness again before I wasted any more time or energy on sorrow.
I decided that for an entire year I would keep track of anything that made me smile, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant.
I got a pretty glass jar, some fun colored pens, and cut up little strips of paper to write on. At first it was very hard to think of things to put down on those bits of paper. In truth, sometimes days went by with the jar sitting untouched, but I kept trying. I started with small things like, "enjoyed a cup of tea," "talked to a friend," and "went for a walk with my dog."
I felt proud every time I added a note to the jar and that motivated me to keep writing. It took a very long time to fill the jar that first year, but eventually the little pieces of paper reached the top because the more open I was to recognizing what brought me joy, the more I appreciated my life.
Gradually I learned to find pleasure in the everyday and although the shift was subtle, it occurred to me, and to those around me, that I was happy again. I began to smile and laugh more. I looked forward to things and began making plans, going out, and creating adventures and special occasions.
Today I still keep a happiness jar on my bedside table but my notes read like this..."enjoyed a nice cup of tea curled up with my book and my pets snuggled beside me," "had soulful conversations with dear friends about life, love and self-worth" and "took my sweet pup for a walk in the sun through the farmers’ fields and laughed out loud at her trying to chase birds." The same basic ideas as when I began, but with so much more delight.
I have learned that happiness is an attitude, a state of mind, and above all a choice. Hard times are inevitable and we cannot control their presence in our lives. We can however, choose to see that hardships don't have to last – they are just moments in time that we battle through. As the Dali Lama has said, "Happiness is not ready made...it comes from your own actions."
Therefore by making happiness a conscious choice we choose to find joy in the everyday.
Last week my youngest daughter was sitting on my bed chatting with me and she happened to look over at my jar. She was shocked at how full it was already this year and it is only April.
I guess I will need to get a second jar!