In the last few years I’ve seen several people online (including author Elizabeth Gilbert) talk about and share their Happiness Jar projects. Initially, I was skeptical of the idea. It wouldn’t be difficult to look back on any year and tell you the stand-out moments. There are always a few biggies, happy or otherwise.
Still. There was something about the Happiness Jar that appealed to me. I wondered if I would learn anything about myself or my life by recording all of these “happy” moments for a year.
As a person who feels overwhelmed by our society’s go-go-go approach, I have felt myself pushing back in recent years. I want to say “yes” to less, want to pursue my own passions more, want to be a person who enjoys the moment as it’s experienced, rather than being poised to tackle the next thing, and then the one after that.
If nothing else, this project seemed like a simple reminder to slow down—even if only for a minute—and reflect.
I doodled myself a label, taped it to a Mason jar, and cut up some scraps of paper. I was ready to go. The goal was to drop my happiest moment into the jar each and every day. I didn't maintain a daily practice, but managed to drop about 70 moments into the jar this past year.
A few days into the new year it dawned on me that it was time to read through my jar. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but this is what happened: Those little scraps of paper made me laugh and cry. They reminded me of what I already know is important, the moments with people I love, the time I carve out for myself, finishing something I started, starting something new, pushing myself outside my comfort zone into new territory, and the simple pleasure of doing the things I love.
What I noticed immediately across the moments were all the actions words: learning, playing, making, hiking, snuggling, kayaking, talking, walking, starting, listening, watching, etc.
Apparently, much of my happiness revolves around doing. Most of it shared with people I love, but also equally cherished: the time I get on my own to do the things I love.
If I needed motivation to continue this project, reading through my 2016 Happiness Jar was it.
It’s not solely about the “reward” at the end of the year, though. Part of the benefit is the slowing down, the reflection on your day. Sometimes, my “happy” moment was already on my mind, thus me going to the jar to record it. Other times, I just happened to be sitting at my desk later in the day, and took a moment to reflect.
This simple act of reflection was powerful to me. I am a working mother with two young children. My husband does freelance work and his schedule changes by the minute. Our lives are unpredictable and ever-changing. When it comes to parenting, it’s easy to get into the rut of routine, feeling like each day was a carbon copy of the last—but they’re not, never are. This is easy to forget as busy parents.
The act of remembering is at times more powerful than the actual recording (though I appreciate deeply the fact that I wrote moments down). And it’s clearly a reminder I’ve needed in my life.
After reading through my happy moments from 2016, I am even more excited for 2017. Both my husband and I are working hard to get our respective businesses off the ground while continuing the freelance work we’ve both known and loved for some time now. There are many possibilities on the horizon, and so much work to do. It would be easy to get caught up in all of that and forget the little moments. Thankfully, I have my Happiness Jar. It’ll let me know what touched my heart the most this year—and I can’t wait to read all about it in 2018.
How about you? Have you started a Happiness Jar? What have you learned from this practice? How has it informed your life?