Think happy. Be happy.

A few days ago, I was reading an article on “365 projects” – which are basically themes for doing something daily for a year, like keeping a gratitude journal or posting a photo to social media. In fact, most of the article was about different ideas for a “photo of the day” project. As I read through the list, I thought how fun it would be to do something like this. Then I remembered…I tried this in 2014 and quit after only 6 weeks!

You see, back then, my friend Kerry thought it would be fun to do something called the 100 Happy Days Challenge. She had stumbled upon this challenge on Facebook and it seemed pretty easy. All you had to do was take a photo every day for 100 days of something happy. Participating was supposed to make you more optimistic, content with your life, and open to new experiences. I made it through 50 days of the challenge.

My foray into “photo of the day” challenges was not a loss though. I might have failed at posting photos but I didn’t fail to grasp the concept behind the challenge – happiness is directly connected to mindfulness. The more you pay attention to what makes you happy, the happier you actually become.

Thinking about happiness trains your brain to focus on the elements in your life that create happiness. It forces you to stop doing things out of unconscious habit and do them by choice instead. And when we realize we do indeed have a choice in what we focus our attention on, we tend to choose more of the things that make us happy. Think of it as one big circle of happiness…

Think happy. Choose happy. Be happy. Repeat 🙂

When our lives are crazy busy, our thoughts tend to go right along that same path. Have you ever been reading a book only to realize that your mind has wondered off to something on your to-do list? Being mindful helps eliminate the mental clutter and makes us more aware of what surrounds us; what is happening in the here and now.

Studies of mindfulness have shown that it leads to healthier, less stressful, more creative and wait for it…yes, happier and more satisfied lives. I know firsthand that there’s some truth to this. Once upon a time I used to plan vacations while I was on vacation. I’d say to myself, “this place is great but wouldn’t a trip to ___ be so much better.” I had a great time, or so I thought, but now, I wonder how much more fun I would’ve had if I’d just enjoyed the trip I was on.

All these years later, I am still working on mindfulness. The more I learn, the more I have come to realize that being mindful is very much like learning to see the world through the eyes you had as a child – back when everything was new and full of wonder. When I read now, I try to let myself get lost in the book, just like I did when I was a child. When I sit on the patio looking at the birds in the backyard, I try to see only the nature that surrounds me. When I am out on the water in my kayak, I try to be one with my environment. And in those moments where I make the choice to be present, I am at my happiest.

How do you practice mindfulness in your daily life? Have you ever attempted a 365 project? Which one, and how did it go?

To read my takeaways from the 100 Happy Days Challenge, check out this post: 5 Things I Learned from 50 Days of Happiness.