One of the best pieces of advice I got in high school was to try to appreciate the little things, rather than waiting for big successes to come along. In this way, I was told, I could train my mind to start focusing on positive thoughts, affirmations and moments, rather than the negatives that we passively reinforce in ourselves on a day-to-day basis. A nice thought, but hard to put into practice—what does “appreciate the little things” even mean? I tried to take this advice to heart but didn’t fully put it into practice until a year later, upon discovery of the Happiness Jar.
I found out about the concept of Happiness Jars from Pinterest—a fantastic resource if you’re looking for DIY projects, and clearly more than just wedding inspo boards! Happiness Jars work exactly how you’d expect—you write down little things that make you feel happy, peaceful or good about life, and put them in the jar. You can read through them when you’re having a bad day, or wait until December and read them all at once for a quick review of the year. Some people try to write down one thing every day—as I did, at the beginning. Many others try to use the process of actively recognizing spontaneous happy moments to train themselves to notice them more frequently.
Nowadays, my Happiness Jar takes the form of an ever-expanding document in my phone’s Notes. I have a separate Note for each year and write each moment below the last to create a string of positive thoughts that I can review come December 31st. The practice of recognizing happy moments, adding them to the list, and being able to scroll up to see all the writing is almost therapeutic to me—knowing that I have a space completely free of negative thoughts which I can fall back on if I start to doubt how happy I am in life. I don’t have a lot of free time with the course load of university, so the Happiness Jar process is perfect for me because it takes almost no effort, but still builds up to produce something meaningful.
For the past few years, I’ve done my best to record moments where I feel calm and content, joyful, excited and even confident in a decision or choice, and it’s done wonders for my everyday happiness. University can be a stressful time for us all and can bring up not only momentary unhappiness but also personal struggles in mental health or relationships with friends and loved ones. Practices like the Happiness Jar may seem too insignificant to make a difference, but by giving everyday joys more weight, I’m reminded every day of how beautiful life can be when I’m not focusing on the negatives. The practice doesn’t negate the hardships by any means, but by working incrementally to increase appreciation for the small things in life, your overall happiness will rise. Furthermore, you’ll also build healthy habits that allow you to continue to improve outside of the Happiness Jar alone!
My Happiness Jar reminds me that the negatives of life are never so overwhelming that happiness is out of reach. The facts don’t lie — if your jar has even a few notes in it, that’s more affirmative thoughts than you’d been reminding yourself of before. By trying this out you might find those seemingly average days contain a lot more happiness than you’d think. For a practice that takes almost no time or effort and yields beneficial results, that’s pretty impressive! So give it a try and remember—the people who do things that end up in your jar might be just as impacted by the little things you do too.