A tricky concept to write about, especially in a blog?
Nevertheless, today, I’m going to try!
A while ago ( just over a hundred days ago ) a friend of mine inspired me to join the100 Happy Day challenge.
Nancy is an impressively bouncy and upbeat individual, and I was going through a somewhat challenging time whilst doing my best to stay positive, so I thought: ‘ Ok, let’s see. Can’t do any harm at all and may even do some good’.
Without wishing to sound too angelic ( you know I’m not, or will do as we go along ) I have always made a little nightly point of writing down the 3 things that have made me happiest that day.
Coming from a Buddhist perspective, I do believe that in order to make anyone else in your life happy, you have first to start with yourself.
And I had been pleased- though not surprised- that most of the little things I noted down each night were either free, or cost very little at all.
Things like…seeing a dear friend’s welcoming smile, a hug from one of my children or even getting into a warm and cosy bed at the end of a long day. We do take that for granted, when so many do not have that luxury.
I had already found that focusing on these happy moments had increased my sense of gratitude and pleasure in my own life, so the 100 Day thing was just a continuation of this at the start.
Then an interesting thing happened.
As I began to really be mindful of the events and people in my day, I actively started to look for the upcoming little ‘ happinesses’.
Now I’m a psychologist, so I’ve long had a strong belief in the power of positive thought, as there is so much scientific proof for the good it does, both for the human psyche and for the body.
And of late, my own research has increasingly been in the field of Mindfulness and Positive Psychology.
But this was slightly different.
As I awoke each morning, one of my first thoughts was to wonder which one thing would outweigh all the others as my top happy moment for that day.
What a great way to start!
Being already extremely fortunate in my life, and lucky that I am the sort of person who enjoys a variety of hobbies and passions, I always had so many lovely things to choose from.
Would it be my dance class or a walk with a friend? Maybe my daily Yoga practice, or the view from my window over the changing river?
Or my work, which brings me so much satisfaction and pleasure these days that it is hardly work at all?
Perhaps something big was coming up that day, such as my eldest son’s return home from America, or there would suddenly be a tiny, unexpected moment of perfect joy in the special smile exchanged between two people who truly love and understand each other.
The point is, there were so many!
And I hadn’t realised how many, until I truly focused on them.
I live in a beautiful place, on an island on the Thames and so this was even easier for me, but one of my favourite happy moments, and one I will always treasure, took place in a hot and crowded room in London, during a work event ( that was the smile 😊 )
These little snapshots of joy in my life began to be something I could not do without.
And even as something made me happy and I thought : ‘Oh, this is today’s’, there was always the delicious possibility of something even happier topping it later! Some days I had so many, I was spoilt for choice!
And the happiness cascaded, as happiness always does.
I began to notice that rather a lot of my friends, who had reported to me that they were avidly looking forward to my Happy Posts each day on Facebook ( my chosen platform, there were other options, but this felt ‘lighter’ somehow ) had begun to post much more positive things on their own pages.
One friend told me that she had always viewed herself as a ‘ glass half empty’ kind of person, but reading about my Happy Days caused her to re-think.
As they read my words, they told me they started to reflect on their own special microcosms of joy.
One friend, who lives in the Middle East ( thank you Reine ) where life is much harder at the moment than here in London, told me that it had affected her quite profoundly.
In a country where there is often so much conflict, she had been feeling- unsurprisingly- a tad more negative than her personality would normally allow. She even told me : ‘Amanda, it is so much easier to be happy when you live in London.’
And then she began to look for her own Happy Day.
It came on a trip to her gym, where she happened to glance out of the window and see a small and beautiful bird, busy upon the branch of a tree.
She saw that the bird was taking no notice of conflict, time or place. It was just being a bird. As nature intended.
She emailed me to say that she thought of what I’d been saying, about actively looking for the good things and living in the moment, and she told me that she had seen there was a lot of beauty in the world, even in a place where peace can be hard to find.
I think the main lesson I’ve learned has been just that: how many moments I really have in my life that give me happiness, and this was a platform through which to express gratitude.
And the wonderful thing about gratitude is, the more you express it, the more things come your way to be grateful about!
It’s a win/ win formula.
Now I’ve completed the challenge ( and I was one of the apparently small percentage who do, most expressing ‘lack of time’ as their reason for dropping out…although it took me less than 5 minutes to post each night…) I miss it.
My friends say they miss it too.
Joyce told me at a party last week that it was the first thing she looked at each morning, my Happy Moment from the evening before, together with the photos I chose to go alongside it.
‘ I miss your Happy Moments’, she said. ‘ I loved seeing all the little things that were making you smile. ‘
But I shall carry on the rhythm, going through my day, noting all the moments where I feel content, happy or at peace, so that I can enjoy the feeling again later and share with those who have contributed to it.
And again, looking back, although there are several repeating themes- dance, tennis, yoga, a swim, the beauty of nature, a special smile, London, family and friends- most of them cost nothing, or very little.
The sight of wild geese flying low over the misty river, or the face of a beloved person can be anyone’s Happy Moment…if only they will take the time to notice it.
The effervescent Nancy, who started all this for me, is on her third lot of 100’s, and I’m contemplating doing my second 100 too.
Happiness seems to be addictive!
And with the autumn upon us, and winter coming on, it is a fabulous way to beat any blues…and far cheaper than any therapy!
I hope you notice your Happy Moment when you feel it…