Back in the spring, Drewdad and I had a conversation about what makes us happy as a family and how we could capitalize on those moments. So when I stumbled across a friend's Facebook feed and the 100 Happy Days project, we decided to participate. Here's an interesting article about the person who started the project and how it completing it affected his life. There is also info about the Today show staff completing the same project starting July 1.
It's awkward to try and document things that give rise to feelings. Often, people don't really have a great idea about where their emotions are coming from. This project sharpened our skills at recognizing feelings in the moment. At first, pausing to photograph something dimished the enjoyment of it. Over time, though, it became more automatic and less disruptive (or I just used a different photo or symbol as a reminder of the experience.) Plus, I like having the album of happy moments to refer to when I have a bad day. Drewdad likes the album too, because it helps him feel more connected with what the kids do during the day and helps him know what to ask them about when he comes home. So while photographing seemed awkward at first, it increased awareness of joy, added an additional uplifting resource to turn to on a bad day or in a down moment, and increased connection among family members.
As I mentioned in my 30 day post, this project helped us appreciate good things more and be less irritated about things that don't go smoothly. Last night my car got a flat, and it was hot outside and irritating to have to change it, but instead of being very irritated, I was grateful that the tire hadn't blown yesterday afternoon in the heat of the day when I was alone on the deserted road miles from town with the 3 kids. A man from the neighborhood brought us water and a flashlight, and Yaya remarked that there are a lot of nice people in the world. The focus was on the positive, and that was really nice, and I think this project has helped us remember to try and think that way as much as possible.
Also, we've learned more about specific things we can decide to do that make us feel good. Looking back through the photos, some themes emerged that we can use to plan to increase happiness. In no particular order:
1. Getting something new, especially if it pertains to a hobby or experience. Ex: new school supplies or a camera.
2. Having an experience. An experience is especially satisfying if its one that's repeated routinely (family dinners or Vacation Bible School in the summer at the same church you've gone to since you were 3, for example) or if it's unusual. Field trip day at school, painting your nails crazy and enjoying wearing it around, having crazy socks for the office, going to Apple camp - all new and different and delightful.
3. Creating something or enjoying something someone else created. Examples: Elf clothes, videos at Apple camp, robots at VBS, books for Drewdad, the flower mural in hallway, Jen's jam
4. Getting recognition like hero of the day bracelets, good grades, good test results, a good work review, or a compliment.
5. Getting a project done especially if it a) clears emotional space b) clears physical space or c) allows you to move on from something.
6. Reaching a milestone. Ex: finishing a grade, being old enough to help with a chore or tall enough ride a ride or do some self-care task, or reaching a goal you set for yourself.
8. Helping others.
9. Having a sensory experience: Looking at flowers, listening to a thunderstorm or music, hearing the kids laugh or sing, smelling the Scensy warmer...
10. Learning something new.
11. Enjoying hobbies. Like Minecraft as an example. Did I mention Minecraft? Hey have you heard about the Minecraft update 0.9.0? Because I could tell you all about it, and how it has Enderman and Zombies and...oh. You heard about it, huh? Have you read the Sims 3 Wiki...?
12. Seeing things through the eyes of the kids.
15. Connecting with others: spending time with someone, feeling connected with a community, reconnecting with old friends, feeling loved and validated, watching someone else experience joy, someone doing something nice for you, singing together, having longstanding relationships with friends and mentors, making new friends, sharing memories, finding a new community (playgroup, school this year), witnessing or fostering growth in someone else or growing as a person yourself, taking care of someone else, or even connecting with a relative stranger over the grocery store counter or on Twitter.
15. Having faith.
So was the project successful in making us happier? I'm not sure. The consensus around here is that people definitely feel happier than they did 100 days ago, but I can't say for sure that it's attributable to this project. I think there is some good evidence that the project contributed. I feel like we got a lot more out of it than I suspected we would get at the outset, or even 30 days in, and that's pretty awesome.
Here are some favorite pictures from the last 70 days of the project - or see the whole album here.