It took me a while to catch onto the 100 Happy Days fad last year. Started by Dmitry Golubnichy, the project is described on its official website (100happydays.com) as a challenge to start noticing what makes you happy every day. The website encourages, “Every day submit a picture of what made you happy! It can be anything from a meet-up with a friend to a very tasty cake in the nearby coffee place, from a feeling of being at home after a hard day to a favor you did to a stranger.”
A large number of my friends took on this challenge. Pictures of smiling faces, fun outings, and beautiful sunsets filled my Facebook newsfeed and my Instagram feed. Everyone somehow found something to be happy about each day, documenting each happy moment with a filtered square-sized photograph. Although I was having plenty of exciting adventures of my own over the summer of 2014 (traveling to St. Petersburg, Russia; Broadway shows; fun events), as well as moments of great happiness with friends and with my significant other, I never felt the urge to document every single one with a caption. I was always quite active on social media, and would share photos of the fun things I did, but it was never an organized effort to point out that every day is a happy day.
That was all until I recognized that I was often overlooking the happy moments in favor of the upsetting things and stressful situations that are an unavoidable part of day-to-day life. I decided then that it would be a good idea to focus on the happy things in my life and to acknowledge them every day – and that is how I began my own 100 Happy Days.
However, instead of publishing the daily entries on Instagram and Facebook like most of my friends were doing, I decided to open a separate Instagram account for the project that would only be seen by me – and occasionally my significant other. Something about the public nature of the project made me feel uncomfortable – it could all too easily devolve into a brag-fest where participants tried finding things in their lives to show off about to all their friends instead of a true introspection into the things that make us happy on a daily basis. I wanted to document these daily moments of happiness without feeling the pressure to impress anyone – and also to encourage myself to be my most genuine in this project and be able to include the happy moments that I did not necessarily want to make public.
And so I began. At first, it was an easy process – I was never at a loss to find a fun moment with my boyfriend, with my friends, at work or at home. But as the project wore on and I found myself going through a stressful period in my life, it became increasingly harder to find happy moments. Some days I had to rack my brain, and then settle for something small and insignificant that was not necessarily an explicitly “happy” moment but rather a “somewhat positive” moment – like a healthy homemade dinner that I was proud of, or seeing something cute in a store that put a smile on my face.
The project began to feel forced – like it was something I had started that seemed important to me and, therefore, had to follow through on. There were two or three downright miserable days when I could not find a single thing that could actually qualify as a happy moment, and I felt as if I was cheating by using something positive that had happened the day before and writing that the memory of it was a happy one. I wanted my one hundred happy moments to truly be happy – not just lukewarm, selected under pressure.
But despite those few days when I felt that the project was not working out as well as I had planned, I found 100 Happy Days to be on the whole rewarding; not just because it accustomed me to looking for the positive moments and taking the time to appreciate them, but because it also helped me gain insight into the things that make me happy. Noticing the patterns gave me the chance to maximize my happiness by deliberately doing more of what actually makes me happy. The things that consistently made me happy, even if I was sometimes embarrassed to use them as my happy moments too often because I wanted some variety, are the things I know I should be doing more often.
Beyond just proving to yourself that you can find happiness most days, the project allows for healthy introspection and gives you a chance to take stock of your life and the things in it. Especially during stressful or challenging times, it is beneficial to take a moment every day to actively think about your happiness and to savor the good moments.
A few months have passed since I completed the project. When I reached day 100, I stopped. I continued documenting the things that made me happy via social media, but I stopped using the separate private account I had made for the 100 Happy Days project.
Looking back on it now, I both miss the project and do not regret that it is over. I miss it because it encouraged me to look for the silver lining every day and reminded me that even when things were tough, I could still find reasons to be happy. I sometimes forget that now if I am having a bad day. But at the same time, a part of me is glad that I don’t have that daily reminder, because bad days are a part of life. It isn’t realistic to think that you will be happy every single day and that there will always be something to put a smile on your face. Because yes, you will have days that are terrible, when you feel that everything that could go wrong is. And on days like that, you don’t always feel like looking for the silver lining. Occasionally wallowing and acknowledging all the negative feelings you’re having is fine too.
The only remainder I have from the project is that I still automatically take a picture anytime something makes me smile – a funny sign in a store, a cute dog walking outside, a delicious dinner, a pretty day. And sometimes I go back to those photos and remember those little fleeting moments, and they still make me smile.