On my previous article, I had discussed that one of the techniques to be positive is to “cultivate a grateful mindset”. Gratitude, I learned, is important in being genuinely happy because it is an affirmation of goodness in life. And one of the most effective ways to cultivate a grateful mindset is to keep a gratitude journal. Last 2015, I took up the #100happydays challenge which, I now realized, is more than just being happy for 100 days straight. It is an electronic version of a gratitude journal. The #100happydays challenge is a powerful tool in cultivating gratitude. An idea I didn’t know when I started.
#100HAPPYDAYS: THE ORIGIN
The #100happydays challenge started in 2013 when Dmitry Golubnichy, a young professional from Ukraine, decided to set a challenge for himself: “to find at least one little thing to be happy about for the next one hundred days.” And to increase his chances of finishing his personal challenge, he posted it all over social media to increase “social pressure” from his family and friends for him to stick to his plan. (Read: I Created A Bucket List Because…) Little did he know then that it’ll gain worldwide attention almost immediately.
It sparked curiosity among his social networks. His friends started wondering what the hashtag #100happydays was all about and if they can join. And as days passed, more and more people started jumping on-board the challenge. By December, Shchochki (Dmitry’s nickname) put up his website and 3000 people registered in one evening.
At present, there are 1.5 million people from 220 countries around the world that has taken the #100happydays challenge. Shchochki has quit his job and started “working” to inspire people to choose happier living.
The #100happydays challenge was a part of my bucket list. I included it because it suits my life philosophy – live your life towards your own happiness. I thought that committing myself to the challenge of being happy for 100 days was a service to my core values. So, I started my #100happydays challenge last August 2015. My intention was simple, to cross this one out of my bucket list and write an article about it (how ironic now!). I didn’t have too much expectations, it was more of a social experiment for me.
The challenge was entertaining at first. There was still novelty in the idea of taking pictures, writing creative captions, and posting them on Instagram. It was initially a happy process. However, as the challenge progressed, the novelty wore off. I started seeing #100happydays literally as a “challenge”. It became a daily grind – an additional workload to my already busy schedule. It turned into something trivial – a daily task I must comply.
I’ll be honest, there were days when I find there’s nothing to be happy about. Yet, I continued. I still posted photos determined to finish the #100happydays challenge.
It was at Day 57 of the challenge when I hit a roadblock. I stopped because of the simple reason that I broke my cellphone. I stopped pursuing the challenge for almost two weeks. Then, I continued. This time on my own journal – offline, no photos, no social media, not worrying about social approval. The #100happydays challenge finally became something personal and intimate.
It was during this journaling process that the challenge really affected me and changed me. The challenge became mine and mine alone. It was during this time that I learned invaluable lessons from this social experiment.
To cut the long story short, I finished the #100happydays challenge in later days of November. Finally, after almost five months I finished a 100-day challenge.
“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgiving, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunity into blessings” – William Arthur Ward
LESSONS FROM #100HAPPYDAYS
There Will Always Be Something To Be Grateful In Life
The lesson taught to me by the sense of obligation to post “something to be happy about” even during the days when there seems to be none was that there will always be something to be grateful in life. “Gratitude can be chosen in spite of one’s situation or circumstance.” We just have to consciously look for it.
The #100happydays challenge helped me re-frame my perspective. It let me see the good even in the most torrential circumstance and made me realize that even in the most challenging and problematic situations lie something positive – that even something bad shelters goodness. For instance, people with progressive diseases became overwhelmingly grateful for a “new life” or “new opportunity” brought about by the disease itself. Same for people who suffered disasters or traumas. This is not superficial optimism, it is reshaping the negative to find something positive.
A photo posted by Keith Lawrence Cruz (@iamkeithcruz) on
Appreciate The Moment For What It Is
I learned to appreciate the day for what it was towards the end of the challenge – without any judgment of whether the day was good or bad, positive or negative. I accepted the day as it happened. I appreciated the moment for what it was. I learned not to critique the moment. I developed gratitude for what the day could bring because no matter what – if it is either pleasant or unpleasant, favorable or not – it is my life’s experiences.
In the end, the accumulation of each day I’m living will be my life.
Gratitude → Happiness
Gratitude breeds happiness. This is the last important lesson I learned from the challenge. Cultivating a grateful mindset raised my happiness baseline. It’s like when you’re grateful it’s easier for you to be happy. Simple things make me happy now – those that I take for granted before.
However, it is simpler said than done. Cultivating a grateful mindset is like exercising your muscles. It demands constant practice. Because when gratitude is practiced regularly it becomes more of a habit – easier and almost automatic. The #100happydays challenge is one way of practicing gratitude, another way is to keep a gratitude journal.
Let me teach you how to start a gratitude journal.
WHY GRATITUDE IS GOOD
By Robert Emmons
1.) Gratitude allows us to celebrate the present. It magnifies positive emotions. Gratitude makes us appreciate the value of something, and when we appreciate the value of something, we extract more benefits from it. We’re less likely to take it for granted.
2.) Gratitude blocks toxic, negative emotions, such as envy, resentment, regret – emotions that can destroy our happiness.
3.) Grateful people are more stress resistant. In face of serious trauma, adversity, and suffering, people with grateful disposition recover more quickly. They possess an optimistic perspective from which to interpret negative life events.
4.) Grateful people have a higher sense of self-worth because they recognize the contributions that other people have made to their life. It transforms the way they see themselves.
HOW TO START A GRATITUDE JOURNAL
The start is always the most difficult part in almost anything. The same holds true in keeping a gratitude journal. There may be challenges that you might encounter (like not knowing what to be thankful for or writing the same thing over and over again) which could discourage you from sustaining a gratitude journal.
The benefits of maintaining a gratitude journal is expansive. And based on personal experience, it is really life-changing. That’s why I don’t want you to be discouraged and overwhelmed. I want you to start and sustain a gratitude journal. Thus, below are steps for you to overcome the hardest part in journaling – the start.
1.) Establish Your “Why”
Be conscious about the reason why you are keep a gratitude journal. Establish your “why”. Is it because you want to be happy or grateful? Find your reason, believe it, and invest in it.
Your “Why” doesn’t need to be brainy or complex. It can be simple, trivial even. What’s important is that you firmly believe your reason and you constantly invest in it. Take my reason for instance: I decided to keep a gratitude journal because I’m dedicated to live my life philosophy – to live my life towards my own happiness. The gratitude journal makes me happy. It keeps me calm and collected. I feel balanced.
2.) Set A Schedule. Be Consistent. Then Don’t
I recommend that you set a schedule for your journaling, at least initially. Do it certain times a week and preferably the same time each day. Thrice a week every after your night shower, for instance. The key is to incorporate journaling as part of your routine – make it a habit. However, once you get the hang of it, make your journaling arbitrary. Write as you experience gratitude, don’t write when there’s really none. Studies suggest that writing occasionally is more beneficial than daily journaling because we adapt to positive things quickly, especially when we constantly focus on them.
3.) Invest In The Experience
Quality over quantity. Writing a single particular experience that elicit high level of gratitude is better than writing down 5 to 10 superficial things you are grateful about. Focus on an experience that you’re truly grateful for and invest on it. Go deep into the experience. Write eloquently and savor every word. Try to re-live the emotions and feelings. Write about the moment as specific and detailed as possible.
4.) Learn To Appreciate The Negative
One very effective advice of Robert Emmons, the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, is “to reflect on what your life would be like without certain blessings, rather than just tallying up all those good things.”
Sometimes, negative things tend to magnify the blessings which we often take for granted. My former workhalic boss, for instance, created a toxic environment by often asking many outputs from me. Little did I know that from such negative experience, I’ll be able to know the basics about the professional career I want to take. There are simple everyday things that we often overlook that only negative experiences can make us realize (e.g. the value of life when death is imminent, importance of a relationship when it’s already gone).
Appreciating negative circumstances is difficult especially when you’re just starting with a gratitude journal. But it’s good to learn the idea early on. You’ll become critical that not all negative things are bad. Sometimes they bring forth something positive.
“We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude” – Cynthia Ozick
5.) Gratitude Takes Time
Gratefulness takes time. This is the last idea to learn on how to start a gratitude journal. Give it a chance, the benefits of a gratitude journal will take some time. There’ll be days when it’ll seems nonsense – boring and repetitive. Don’t be disheartened. Remember that practice makes perfect. Just give it a fair chance.
BEYOND THE #100HAPPYDAYS
2015 was one of my greatest years. It was a year of personal accomplishments. The year when: I started this site, made a career shift, invested in personal development, launched two e-books, deepened relationships, gained financial ease.
Day 1: Gratitude. This year will be about it. I’ll focus my energy striving to be always grateful. I’ll let my 2016 revolve around gratitude. And as a major commitment to gratitude, I’ll find one thing I’m thankful for each day for 365 days – a whole year. Today, it’s paraw sailing – watched the sun set. It was calming, peaceful even. I give thanks for the opportunity to reflect. I returned to the island with a renewed sense of self. I want to start anew yet I also want to give it another chance. I believe I can do both. #365daysofhappiness #vsco #vscocam
Beyond the #100happydays and 2015, I decided that 2016 is a year centered on gratitude. The year that I’ll devote to #365daysofhappiness – to develop my gratitude further. This year is about seeing the beauty of the little things. It is about savoring life, being grateful for the experiences of each and everyday – both the good and bad. 2016 is about appreciating life as it is – without reservations, labels, or judgment.
I look forward to what 2016 may bring. I’m grateful no matter.
SPREAD HAPPINESS + GRATITUDE!
Spread happiness by sharing this article to your friends. Better yet, sign-up to my mailing list by subscribing below. As a sign of gratitude, I’ll give you a copy of my first e-book “How To Live A Happy Life”. I promise to send nothing but quality contents.