I decided to do the 100 Happy Days Challenge for a lark and because I want to take more photos with my phone for the blog and Instagram and I find I need a structure for that. Also, I’ve been accused of having a negative view of life, and I figured this might be a way of striking a balance, highlighting the bright spots, especially at a time of great emotional turbulence.
I found that the mere mention of the challenge made several people want to sneer. I never advertised that I was doing the challenge except on the blog and Instragram where I’m mostly followed by people who don’t know me in real life and therefore I’d presume could easily look away from any annoying exhibitions of joy I might post. However, I was observed by friends and family taking photos of stuff at odd moments and when asked about it, instead of lying, I mentioned the challenge which was a cue for such questions as: “Do you really think it’s going to make you happier?” (That wasn’t my aim, see above),“Are they really happy moments every day?” (Yes! I knew this even before I started the challenge. Maybe you need to do it) and “It’s so annoying all these people pretending to be happy” (Pretending? How do you know? Why does it annoy you?) Even on this blog, there were those who felt obliged to make the odd dismissive comment.
Naysayers notwithstanding, I plodded along. And here’s what I think on the other side:
- Did it make me happier? The challenge website suggests that people who completed the challenge found it had a positive impact on overall happiness. I think the idea is related to positive psychology. While I’m happier having completed the challenge, I can’t definitively say this is because of the challenge. It just so happened that in the last week of the challenge something big shifted in my marriage. With this big stressor removed, I feel lighter and happier. But I can’t say that the challenge didn’t help me cope during a difficult time either. Focusing on and treasuring happy moments in the day should have some, if only momentary, positive effect.
- I was surprised that people seem surprised that one could find a happy moment every day. Someone even asked me: “Do you plan (i.e. set up) the moment?” No, I don’t, because I don’t need to. Something happy, however small, does happen almost, if not every, day. I already knew this because I was already in the habit of treasuring the small stuff. In that sense, the impact of the challenge might be more greatly felt by those that don’t do this regularly. For me, it’s normal to savour certain moments in the day, the difference with the challenge was that I stretched it out longer because I photographed it and also thought about which moment to feature.
- My methodology was to intermittently think about which moments I could feature. If something pleasant happened, I’d mentally file it away as a contender. In that sense, it was a little like a mini daily happiness Olympics where at the end of the day, I’d decide which was the most meaningful moment to share. It became a way of reflecting upon not just one, but many good times.
- It was interesting to see how something that at the beginning of the day I was quite sure was going to yield the happiest moment, might not necessarily do so. For example, one day I was quite sure that a dinner with friends was going to be my happy moment for the day, but when I was taking a photo of the food to represent it, they had so many annoying comments that I ended up posting something else. Another time, I was sure a birthday party my kids attended would be the happy moment, but it turned out to be something else quite small.
- I recorded a moment for each day diligently, though sometimes I’d forget to do a photo, and then go back and take something to represent the day. Only in the week that I was in Bombay did I skip this daily record because every single day was so filled with joy and it was too hectic to record individual moments. There were only a couple of days when I cheated and used a happy moment from one day to cover the next day, either because there were two standout moments in the day or because a particular day was flat with no moment to highlight (this happened literally twice).
- Contrary to what I’d been hearing, I didn’t see a lot of people doing the challenge with me. In the blog world, just one. And on Instagram, a handful. None of these posted show-offy or clichéd photos and they’re from different parts of the world so it’s quite sweet to see slivers of their lives.
- The challenge did get me into Instagram, which I’ve wanted to get into but never knew how. As a side effect, I’m now following a lot of models and getting my fashion fix. I’ve also always had something to post on the blog, even if readers might not have loved these kinds of posts. It brought back a bit of the diary element to the blog.
- There were moments in between when my enthusiasm did flag and I began to think 100 days was very long. But I’m one of those disciplined people that rarely gives up on a project embarked upon, especially if I chose it. And now that I’m done, I’m feeling a void. In fact, I might pick up another feel-good project – either the What Went Well exercise suggested in the Brain Pickings article or this .
It’s interesting to look back on the posts and see a pattern in the things that make me happy. I did a chart and will post my analysis tomorrow. (Yeah, you’re not done with hearing my drone on about this).