Has the #100happydays challenge really made me happy?

24 Apr

Some of you probably have heard of the 100 happy days challenge, or have seen friends in different social networks who are posting photos of something that made them happy for 100 days in a row. Check out the original website:

Essentially, what is the whole fuss about? You take a photo of something that made you happy for a 100 days in a row and share it with your friends on a social network of your choice. It can be a nice experience, delicious meal, meeting with an old friend, etc. I have to admit, some days it was more of a challenge than during others. After all, we all have these gloomy, dark Mondays when work is not that bad, but also not terribly thrilling, social life is rather slow, and nothing whatsoever exciting happens to you. I really had to dig deep to come up with a photo of something that made me happy. In most days, it would be something that would just make me smile. Other days, there were things and experiences that made me out-of-my-mind happy, but I just failed to capture the moment (or simply did not feel like sharing something very personal with facebook). But I have always liked a challenge, so this one came just at the right time.  

It was shortly after New Year’s Eve, and I guess I was still under the influence of the whole New Year’s resolutions craze, when I stumbled across this 100 happy days initiative. I had had a tough few months, to be honest pretty much everything that could wrong, went wrong at a certain point, at times — simultaneously– and I ended up pushing myself to get out of bed in the mornings. Of course, at the cost of blood, sweat, and tears, you have to pull yourself together after all. Or, as a character in a book by Steinbeck that I am currently reading says, “it’s about putting one foot in front of the other, one foot in front of the other, and that’s all I can think about”. In a nutshell, I needed to start appreciating life, and find a little bit of sunshine in those days of gloom.

And I stuck with it. All 100 days of it. If I have to really pick a title, I would not call them 100 days of happiness, but  the 100 days of my life when I struggled to re-discover happiness. Well, it turned out that my low mood was mainly due to lack of vitamin D (that is a real thing if you live in a country where the sun does not shine a lot, or you are so busy that you don’t go outside) but my 100 happy days created a good habit. You force yourself– in your days of misery– to pause for a moment, have a look around, take a deep breath, and just try to notice. Because once you start paying attention to the small, astonishingly simple and yet, breathtaking things around you, it becomes like a healthy habit. Now, even if I am stuck in my office late in the afternoon, way overdue the end of the workday, I will pause for a moment to look at the sunset. Or as I am running, I will pay attention to the blooming trees, the flowers sprouting around without no one planting them there or taking care of them, the cute ducks and swans that you see along almost every canal or a river in the Netherlands. I do not have the social life I’d like to due to a busy schedule, but now I do enjoy every rendezvous more (ok, maybe also because it happens less often), and derive more joy from things as simple as reading a book or watching a movie.

So, no, the 100 happy days did not make me leap with joy, but in a way, they gave me what I needed at the moment– the good habit of just taking a mental pause, and freezing a beautiful picture in my mind. It did not change my life to 180 degrees, just helped me start applying those universal, simplest of rules, that, at least I knew very well but had not really fully enforced. And some days, that’s all you need– just a small, kind gesture, pure and honest politeness from a stranger, a stunning sunset, or cozy time with favourite people to make you feel…well, if not 100% happy, then at least, appreciative, and grateful for it all!    

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Posted by on April 24, 2014 in Happiness



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