5 Things I Learned from 50 Days of Happiness

Today is my 50th day in the 100 Happy Days challenge. People who complete the challenge are supposed to be in a better mood every day, be more optimistic, and realize how lucky they are to have the life they have. Midway through the challenge and I already feel that way. Truth is I’ve felt that way all along. This challenge hasn’t been a waste though. Far from it! It has helped me to be more mindful of what makes me happy and how my happiness affects the people around me and I have learned a lot about myself, my partner, and my friends along the way.

First, I learned to never be ashamed of the things that make you happy.

19 of our 49 posts were food related. At first, I felt guilty posting so many things to eat. Negative messages played in my head about how you shouldn’t find happiness in food because it’s unhealthy blah, blah, blah…but then I stopped to really think about it. We’re foodies. We love food. From homemade applesauce to picnics by the beach, Angie and I both find great joy in preparing and sharing food…and there’s no shame in that.

DSCN3800Next, I found that happy images can indeed inspire happy feelings.

The most liked posts over the past 50 days have been the ones of the beach and sunset. Beaches are a universal symbol of relaxation and people see in those images their own happy times, past and future. I can relate. I keep a picture of the ocean on my computer desktop just for that same purpose.

But soon I came to see that happiness can’t be measured in Facebook likes.

The first few weeks of the challenge were about posting the things that made us happy but soon we began to put too much thought into the process. Each day as we talked about which “happy picture” to post, I noticed that the primary consideration wasn’t on sharing our own happiness but on choosing something that might make the most people happy (ie. get the most response). Such is the downside of being human…we all just want to be accepted…but putting someone else’s happiness ahead of your own is never a good thing.

And I developed a greater appreciation of the fact that the pursuit of happiness is not happiness.

The greatest lesson that I’ve learned in this social experiment is that there’s more than just a grain of truth to the saying, “The moment you stop chasing happiness, you become happy”. Many times over the past 50 days I’ve found myself scrounging about to find a picture that conveys happiness rather than finishing up the chapter I was reading, taking a walk, or having a conversation with the ones that I love.

Finally, I realized that it’s okay to stop doing something that doesn’t really make you happy.

For a few days now I have been contemplating calling it quits on this challenge, at least in part…and apparently I’m not alone. On the 100HappyDays.com website we’re told that 71% of people will fail to complete this challenge because they don’t have time to be happy. When I started this challenge I agreed wholeheartedly that in this fast-paced, get-ahead-society, people really don’t take the time to be happy. But now I’m not so sure I agree that this is why folks stop participating in the challenge. I think they do it because it works. The benefits of paying attention to what makes you happy are undeniable.

I’m happy just being mindful of my own happiness. I’m not happy trying to come up with ways to showcase that happiness every day. Posting a picture a day takes time and sometimes that time gets borrowed from the actual things that bring me happiness. While I may ultimately decide to stop posting to Facebook, I still plan to continue this challenge by simply taking a moment each day to reflect on happiness.

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