Happiness is a Warm Jar

As each day unravels, it’s easy to slip into complacency. I find myself doing the same thing, day in and day out. Everything feels stagnant, and while each day is different in its own right, the days remain largely the same.

On top of that, it’s hard to find what’s good every day outside of “I woke up, all of my body parts are functioning as usual, I have food and a roof over my head.” Of course, these are not to be taken for granted (I learned the power of running water when during my Peace Corps service I was denied it for an extended period of time). And really, we should be more thankful of these privileges. I remember telling a friend or two about said waterless plight and how they shouldn’t take it for granted.

“I don’t!” they said.

But believe me, they do. I do. You do, too.

A few years ago circa 2012, I learned about something called a happiness jar. Starting on January 1st of the new year, you’re supposed to write something – anything – that made you happy every day. By the end of the year, on December 31st, your jar should have at least 365 reasons something or someone made you happy.

So on January 1st, 2013, I washed out a salsa jar and threw in my first piece of paper. Sadly, here in 2017, the jar isn’t even halfway full (to be fair it’s a massive jar). I even started one during my service, only for it to meet the same fate. It’s not that I’m devoid of emotion; it’s that I don’t find interest in writing the same reasons over and over again. So now, instead of forcing myself to drop a paper into my jar every day, I add one when I am genuinely happy.

It’s a great exercise in understanding gratitude. There are some days that are so bad, I have to actively remind myself of what good happened so that I don’t write off my day as a complete waste. Those entries to the jar are most important.

My jar stares at me from across the desk every day, and I stare back. Yes, it’s only barely halfway full, but I can still find reasons to add to its collection. One day, that jar will be full, and I can finally dump out its contents to read, to reflect, and to start again.

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