Sparkly Unicorn Friends,
Did you know that August is Happiness Happens Month? And did you also know that Happiness Happens Day is celebrated annually on August 8? That’s right, cool cats! We get a whole month to celebrate happiness and one dedicated day to actuallyrevel in it. It’s time to get your happy on!
On the surface, a month and a day dedicated to happiness may seem kind of silly. Except. Except that some people really struggle to find and focus on happiness. According to TIME magazine only 33% of Americans reported that they felt happy in 2017. As the magazine points out, these are contentious times. Still. Thirty-three percent, folks. That’s pretty bad.
Why is that number so low? A large part is due to our natural “negativity bias,” which is a product of evolution. Our ancestors needed to be on high alert for negative situations (extreme weather, predators, lack of food) in order to survive. As a result, negative stimuli had -- and still has -- a bigger impact on us than positive stimuli does. Which is to say: we naturally focus on the bad stuff.
Can we overcome that natural bias? You betcha! And Happiness Happens Month aims to help us do just that. It’s “based on the premise that happiness is unlimited and contagious and that sharing one’s happiness can bring a lot of joy in other people’s lives.”
The group that started Happiness Happens Month (and Day) will have guided daily challenges throughout August, to help you focus on your own happiness. But, because I blog for Sohospark, I’m here with my own suggestion.
You know it, cool cats. Let’s talk about happiness journals.
Happiness Journals - The Nitty Gritty
Since we are the heroes and heroines of our own stories, why not make it a story we love? -- Katie Wells @ Rebelle Society
Happiness is totally a frame of mind. As I discussed in a previous blog, you get to choose what to focus on in your life. Everyone has good and bad stuff happen. Everyone. Not one single person in the whole world lives a life where nothing bad ever happens. But happy people choose to focus on the positive. Keeping a happiness journal is a terrific way to train yourself to keep to the sunny side.
If all you do is make a daily list of, say, three things that made you happy, you’re going to increase your happiness. Yep, it’s that easy.
First of all, just putting pen to paper helps us remember stuff. Amber Lea Starfire explains it brilliantly over at Writing through Life, but the nutshell version is: when we write down our happy experiences, we embed them into our memory. And, who doesn't want more happy memories to call on?
But also, because we’re prone to the negativity bias, we have to be mindful to recognize happy moments. First, as we learn to pay attention to happy moments, we start recognizing them more easily. Second, there’s a strong connection between mindfulness and happiness.
Finally, if you believe in the Law of Attraction, Katie Wells’ epiphany will make total sense. A lot of us use our journals as a safe place to vent and express our darkest worries and fears. But as Katie points out in her piece at Rebelle Society, she realized that she was “concreting all these [negative] stories by writing them down each day.” If we want more happiness in our lives, then we need to write about happiness.
Sparkly unicorns, writing down happy things is a terrific way to chart a happier life. But there are other things that you can do in your writing journals to take your happiness to a whole other level.
Gratitude and happiness go together like sparkles and unicorns. Studies actually show that keeping a gratitude journal increases happiness (as well as optimism and health, for what it’s worth). Check out my blog, The Joyful Benefits of a Gratitude Journal, for inspo.
Journaling about the people we love can help us tap into our happy. Noting why we love a person or what makes them special is a terrific exercise in happiness. And, writing a gratitude “letter” to someone -- even if we draft it in a personal diary and never send it -- creates “substantial boosts in happiness.”
Ideal Ways to Spend your Day
Jordan Clark has an EXCELLENT YouTube video about journaling to increase your happiness. One of her suggestions is to make a list of what you would do on your “Perfect Day.” Imagine a day with no restrictions on your time or budget. Who would you spend the day with? How much rest would you get? Would you go to a movie or a concert? Would you go out for dinner or would you try a new gourmet recipe? Would you learn something new? Would you start that novel you always wanted to write?
Envisioning yourself in your happy place is an excellent way to get those happy endorphins popping. It also serves as a basis for self-reflection. Are you already doing the things on your list? Are they actually making you happy? And if you’re not doing those things, why not?
Write as your Future Self
Another suggestion from Jordan Clark's YouTube video is to picture yourself on a future date. Then write as though you are living on that date. The possibilities are endless. You could write as though you are living your wedding day, the day your child is born, the day you’re awarded your Ph.D., or the day you’ve checked off a bucket list item. Imagining the happiness you feel on that day is sure to put a smile on your face. And, writing this narrative down in a personal journal has all the benefits I discussed above, of jotting down happy things.
Relive the Joy
Regularly flip through your happiness journal to revisit your joy. You may even want to compile weekly or monthly Top Ten lists of happy moments as Mary does over at uncustomary.org. Isn’t that a great idea?
Share your Happiness
A piece at Prevention states that sharing your happy moments can double or even triple your “gains in happiness and life satisfaction.” Markham Heid, the author of the piece, suggests pulling out your happiness journal a few times a week and sharing some positive entries with a loved one. Sharing your joy is effective because you get to relive the moment and also see it through someone else’s eyes.
Cool cats: Do you already keep a happiness journal? If so, do you have any further tips to share? Please let me know if the comments below. Or, if this blog has inspired you to start a happiness journal, I’d love to know that too.
Big thanks to Jannie, @bulletajournal on Instagram, for use of her photo.
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Starting this year, I’ll be doing something else to recharge and destress: journaling. Both Bullet Journals and writing journals can help you manage the chaos of the holiday season - so that you can focus on the joy.
It's a proven fact: Kindness makes you feel happy and feeling happy makes you kinder.
Tracking kindness is a terrific way to keep kindness on our radar and incorporate more of it into our lives. Just as a gratitude journal makes us more attuned to the things that we’re grateful for, a kindness journal or tracker makes us more aware of those moments of grace. And, especially if we have a goal of recording one (or more) acts of kindness daily, we’ll be more apt to take action.