Keeping A Happiness Jar Is A Great Idea, And We Should All Be Doing It

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Elizabeth Gilbert, author of seven books including her very famous memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, and her latest, Big Magic, is doing something wonderfully contagious and inspiring (again), and I firmly believe we should all play along. It’s is fast, easy, and has the potential to change our lives for the better.

Her post on Facebook, “Happiness in Jars,” gave me the good kind of goosebumps and left me inspired. It’s a reminder we all need going into the new year: There is something to be appreciated every day.

Each day, you write something down on a little piece of paper: your happiest moment of the last 24 hours. Even if it was a really shitty day and you forgot to breathe a few times, felt like you were doing a lousy job as a parent, or witnessed something traumatic, you still do it. There will always be something to learn from, an opportunity to grow, a friend who came to your rescue when you needed them. We sometimes have to dig deep to find our moments, but there is always a moment to be found.

Why haven’t I been doing this my whole life?

If you feel there are days when there was no bright spot to be found, read her words below. They are sure to make you see things in a different light, they certainly did for me.

“There’s always SOMETHING to put in the jar. Even on the crappiest day, there’s a happiest moment. (Or at the very least: A LEAST crappy moment.) I’ve felt moments of grace and happiness at funerals, in hospitals, in the midst of pain and loss and hard times. A moment of kindness from a stranger. Somebody hands you a cup of coffee. You finally get to take off your shoes. It stops raining. There it is: a flicker of light. Write it down. Throw it in the jar. Keep it forever.”

This quote reminded me it is okay to look for the good in a bad, sad day, even situations like a funeral. In fact, we should look for them. Finding your “happiest moment” is always doable. I think for so many people, myself included, if there is something that stands out and makes us see a glimmer of hope during a trying time, we almost feel as though we shouldn’t mention it, we feel guilty for noticing it, or think it shouldn’t be the focus.

But we need to focus on these things, not only for ourselves but also for our loved ones. We all know love breeds love, and happiness is contagious, and one good deed leads to another, and wow, what a great example to set for our children.

So yes, even during a shitstorm (especially during a shitstorm), we should write down our best moments, lest we forget these rays of sunshine that are shown to us on purpose, to get us through, to make us remember that we are worthy of being happy even during hard times.

These moments cannot be manufactured, like the night my youngest son walked down the stairs (when he was supposed to be in bed) with his hands full of candy and said, “Mom, I have been saving my Advent calendar treats so I can give them to Anna for Christmas! Don’t tell her. It’s a surprise.”

I was just about to scold him for getting up because we had one of those days where I was counting down the minutes until bedtime, but I am so glad I didn’t open my mouth. That was one of the best gifts I have ever been given. I put it in my jar, because if I ever forget about that, I don’t know what I would do.

How many times have you looked through old pictures and had them spark something in you that you had forgotten about? It can give us the kick in the ass we need to be thankful for this one life we are living.

Filling our happiness jars is just like that, only we are using words instead of snapshots to capture our joy, to hold onto it forever.

If we get in the habit of seeing all that is great out there, we get better at it, and the reward is we begin to see more and more of the beauty life hands us, even during our darkest times. Even when the world news is tragic, heartbreaking, and leaves us feeling helpless because we can’t save the world all on our own.

The stuff that makes us happy is usually small and simple: spotting a bright red cardinal, seeing a couple reach out for one another, making someone’s day by giving them a compliment. It doesn’t take a lot of time, money, or energy to make someone smile. Doing this means that sometimes you will be the one bright spot in someone’s day. The thing they need to fill up their jar when the rest of the day was complete shit. That’s not narcissism, folks. That’s simply recognizing the power of kindness.

So let’s see your jars. Let’s start noticing the simple joys each day. Let’s write down our memories so we have a tangible reminder that even when life is hard, it’s also good.

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