Monday, January 12, 2015


A year or so ago, my sister did something different.  I had seen a few other people on facebook do it, but I watched it carefully when she started.  It was the 100 happy days photojournal.

The rules are simple.  You have to find something to take a picture of, every day, that makes you happy.  It cannot be anything intended to belittle someone else - your happiness cannot come at the expense of someone else. It also is not a forum for bragging. It has to be something that makes you happy. And then it has to be posted in a public forum (I used Facebook).

The idea is cool. And I watched her with interest.  Caroline has had a few nasty curves thrown her way, and watching her find something - anything - to be happy about every single day, was fascinating to me. Through the first couple of months, I watched as something changed in the tone of her posts.  All of them - not just the ones with the hashtag.  There was a positive, upbeat energy that had been missing. 

Even her tough days had a positive vibe to them.

I asked her about it. Essentially, she told me that being forced to find something positive about the day (sometimes, just the fact that there is a bed to go to where you can forget about how bad the day was) means that she is on the lookout for the good things.  She also said that it was hard at first, but it eventually became a practice. 

And that recognizing the good things, as they happened, and calling them for what they were, made a difference.

I was reluctant.  But when Caroline did it again, and my Mom did it, too..... I figured I could do it, as well.

It meant that there were some days that I was prowling around my house at 10pm, looking for something to take a picture of.  Something.... anything, that I could count as being a source for my happiness for the day.  So most days, especially early on, the happy moments were identified late in the day, and it seemed forced.

But just like Caroline said, there was a little switch that turned on.  I cannot speak to whether it was simply the forming of a habit of taking the pictures, or whether the search for happy moments actually changed my approach.  But I started seeing them more.  I started watching better throughout my day for the things that brought a smile to my face.  And even if I was caught without the camera, I noted the moment.

Suddenly, I am not tallying up the insults from the day in my emotional ledger.  I am not accumulating the stresses and conflicts and the moments when I am feeling unappreciated and angry.  Instead, I am looking around at opportunities to be happy. To find and create the joy in the moment, rather than finding the reason to feel down.

My #100 happy days were not perfect.  I took a hiatus when I went to Peru; the memories there were not part of my day-to-day happiness that I was trying to teach myself.  (And besides, internet connection was iffy, and non-existant on the trail).  Truth is, anybody can find happy moments on vacation.  It was the grind-it-out, meeting-filled, deadline-pushing day-to-day happy moments that I wanted to develop.

I am even pretty sure that if I were to go back through my hundred days, I would find that I missed days.  So I did not complete the challenge, as it was originally proposed. But interestingly enough, it seems that the days that I was most likely to miss were the days that were spent being the happiest.  Maybe it was that I did not feel the need or the pressure to complete the photojournal for the day, and I just left that to-do item unchecked for the day.  Maybe it was that happiness - like the day with the grandkids - is more personal, and I didn't want to share.

Whatever it was, the assignment changed my approach to some things, especially on days that I have rough patches. I actually seem to find more things to be grateful for, more people to be glad to see, more dogs and flowers and (too often, perhaps) alcohol to brighten my day, and in finding those things, I become happier.

I don't know whether it will be necessary to do it again in order to recapture that, or whether the 'noticing' of happy moments is really habit now.  I hope I don't need the assignment.  But if I do, you will see my #100happydays tag start over at Day 1. 

Don't be surprised to see your face there. 


benjamin griffeth said...

Duke is doing a study with the School of Medicine looking at posting "three Good Things" daily for 4 weeks and the participation's effect on burnout. Data pending. I participated and found it interesting though I was surprisingly not much changed by the process. Maybe I didn't hold my tongue right while typing.

Crorey Lawton said...

@Ben, I am not surprised. I did not feel an emotional seismic shift myself, and I consider myself a pretty positive (and not terribly cynical) person. Most of the time, coming up with the photographic evidence was the hard part. The limitation of transmitting the image (instead of painting a word picture) made it more tangible somehow.

And I am still feeling burned out.