What I Learned from the "100 Happy Days" Project

In a previous blog post I announced my participation in the #100HappyDays project and encouraged you all to sign up. It's very simple. You go to www.100happydays.com, submit your e-mail address, take a short survey about your current happiness level, and choose the social media outlet you will use to document your journey. The premise of the project is to post one picture a day for 100 days straight. Each photo is representative of something that gives you the warm fuzzies and the purpose is to help you become more aware of all the *little things* you have to be happy about. If you complete the challenge without missing a day the foundation sends you a small book with your 100 photos in it...a keepsake made completely of your own happiness, if you will.

Needless to say, I was ALL about it. I didn't even have to think about it...I was immediately on board. I viewed myself as a pretty happy person already (maybe that's where the trouble began) but, I wanted to accept the challenge, and I wanted that little book.

So, it was with great pleasure, excitement, and positivity that I began my #100HappyDays project. I chose Instagram as my method of documentation in an effort to take more pictures (as if I don't take enough) and to challenge myself in finding creative ways to document said happiness.

What I didn't know when I began the #100HappyDays is how immersed in the "image" of being happy I would become. What I didn't know when I began my #100HappyDays is that my family would suffer the prolonged sickness of a loved one, and, in the midst of those 100 days, the death of that loved one. What I didn't know when I began my #100HappyDays is that I most definitely did not need a viral social media trend to prove to myself what I already knew: I am a happy, blessed, optimistic little lady without having to let the world know. 

Day 1: I got my hair cut and indulged in the rare treat of Starbucks. I was elated with my much shorter 'do, and really, I'm borderline addicted to coffee, so it was safe to say the 1st day of my 100 Happy Days was off to a roaring start. 

Day 2: Already struggling. I received my first Julep Box in the mail, wore a brand new shirt, and it was Friday (#TGIF). I made a collage of these things and prepared to post it. In the process of posting, I was already unhappy with myself for documenting material items as what made me particularly happy that day. And...how do you really document the feeling of a Friday (that ISN'T a selfie of you making a ridiculous face) other than take a picture of the calendar? 

The next 25 days were fine. I took the pictures, I posted them to instagram, I hashtagged them appropriately. No big deal. 

Day 27: My Popadoc is sick and in the hospital. It doesn't look good. It's not good. The last thing I want to do is post a happy picture. But, I find one and I post it, because I don't want to be part of the 71% of people who couldn't complete this challenge. I'm pretty sure posting something "happy" because you have to defeats the purpose...don't you think?

Day 32: I've been in New York City visiting my amazingly wonderful boyfriend (a very happy thing), but this particular morning I received the news that my grandfather had passed. I would be heading home for his funeral the next day. I was so happy to be spending time with my boyfriend but so guilty about posting a happy photo, despite the immense feeling of sadness at knowing I would never hug my grandfather again.

Day 45: I'm over it. This picture of a paper banana was the only thing "cool" enough to photograph that particular day. No, I wasn't having a bad day. No, I wasn't in a bad mood. There was simply no photographic evidence of my contentedness that day. So, I chose this. A+ for effort, right? 

.................

Nearing the end of my journey, I realized my hashtags were on autopilot. Meaning, I was taking 1-2 pictures a day and labeling one with the appropriate hashtag of #100HappyDays without much thought at all. Being that I'm not one to post anything negative, each of my posts could have counted as something happy in their own way. In the end, I wasn't even looking for anything special. I was going about my day and labeling it as happy whether I truly felt it or not.

I made it all the way into the 60's. Why aren't I specific about the exact number? Because somewhere in the midst, I FORGOT to post one day. It wasn't a conscious effort, because like I said, I am NOT one to back down from a challenge. But it happened....life happened. I posted 1-2 photos each day since the challenge began and yet, I forgot to hashtag ONE of those with #100HappyDays so that it would count. Pretty lame, right? Right. 

When I discovered I had missed a day somewhere in the mix, I felt like crying. I was so incredibly frustrated with myself that I hadn't acknowledged happiness one day sometime in April. My mind was full of questions.

"What if people notice that I just stopped with the happy stuff?"
"I'm sure no one has noticed...should I keep going?"
Finally...
"Why do I feel so relieved?"

The next day, when I got the urge to post a picture...my first one without the #100HappyDays hashtag... I felt like the whole world would suddenly realize my "happiness" had come to a very premature end.

And the next day, when I would post yet another picture, I felt a little of that feeling. This time, there was more relief than worry. 

And now, a few weeks later, I can assess my experience clearly. It wasn't a bad experience by any means...but I found it to be more of a hassle than an opportunity for growth in optimism. I found that I am most certainly a happier person without the pressure of being happy. I am happier with my surroundings when I'm not worried about which thing to photograph and how to present it. I am happier keeping some things to myself. And I am happier when I am "allowed" to have a day of sadness when something truly sad has happened. 

However, if I had not accidentally missed a day, I am positive I would not have quit the challenge. I would be somewhere in the 80's, most likely still on autopilot. That's not a very happy thought...it's actually very sad.

For those of you that are completing this challenge (and I'm following a lot of you!) I totally support what you're doing. Knowing that this was more of a challenge than I ever expected should be further encouragement for you to keep it up!  

I also realize that I entered into this journey with the wrong state of mind. Whether or not I wanted to make myself a happier person, I wanted to say I completed the challenge, join the 29% of happy folks, and get that little book. Subconsciously, I entered without realizing I would be so conscious of what I put forth on a platter for everyone to see, labeled as my "happiness." This is not the intent of the foundation, and I shouldn't have tried to fix in myself what wasn't broken, just because I wanted to say I did it.

"They" say you shouldn't criticize something unless you have a suggestion of how it can be improved. What would have been more effective for me is a name change: #100HappyThings. There are countless happy things in a day, most of which we don't take time to recognize. But, the unhappy truth of it is that not every day is a happy day. And it really shouldn't have to be.

The moral of my story is....
*Find your own happiness in whatever way you can, whether it is completing this challenge or not. But if you tried and still didn't feel the "happy" and felt like it was all your fault....you're not alone. This extremely happy girl was unable to complete the happiest challenge on earth.

I want to hear your thoughts on this! For those of you that are completing the challenge, do you think it helped you? Did you feel any of the things I felt? I am open to any and all opinions. I love new perspectives.

Have a happy Friday....only if you want to :) and I'll see y'all soon.