No matter how much we try to avoid them, bad days often come up out of nowhere and usually stem from one or two bad things happening. The size and scope of the bad thing usually doesn’t matter, either. It can be as big as car problems or as small as burning your breakfast — we usually can’t compartmentalize the bad things and we let them dictate our days.
But what if I told you that you could combat these bad day spirals with something as simple as a jar of happiness?
What is a Jar of Happiness?
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The concept is very simple — every time you think of something good or something good happens to you, write it down on a piece of paper and put it in a jar. ‘Storing’ your happy thoughts and memories in this jar will not only help you gain perspective and get your head out of a bad day when you’re having one, but it will also help you reframe how you see the world.
Jeffrey Froh, professor of psychology at Hofstra University and author of Thrive: 10 Commandments for 20-Somethings to Live the Best-Life Possible, says about the jar, “By writing the happiest moment of our day onto a piece of paper daily and putting it in a jar, we’re training our brains to scan our environment for the positive and to become a ‘blessing detector.’”
Similar to how the Five-Minute Journal asks you every day to think of the three best things of your day, a jar of happiness can act as a visual representation of all the good in your life and a highlight reel of sorts for the best moments.
How to Make a Jar of Happiness
On Gilbert’s blog post about how to create a jar of happiness, she notes that it takes roughly 35 seconds a day to do, and yet it transforms your life in more ways than you can imagine. She says, “As years go by, whenever I’m having a rough time, I dig through the jar and pull out random slips of paper, and delight in them — all those momentary gems of life that I would have immediately forgotten, had I not jotted them down. They bring infinite comfort.”
She goes on to explain that there are no real rules for the jar. While she encourages adding to the jar every night and reflecting on the good as much as possible, even Gilbert has days that she forgets, which is okay. The goal of the jar of happiness isn’t to be perfect, but to be joyful and present in your life.
If you would like to set boundaries or goals for your jar of happiness because that would help remind you to add to it, go for it! We just hope that your jar always brings you joy and never adds to your stress.
One idea that could be beneficial when you’re creating your jar is to color code the memories, so you know the general subject you’re grabbing when you get a slip of paper. For example, a certain color can pertain to a memory with people, another can be about luck, another about something you did for yourself, and another for milestones. You can continue to personalize those categories for yourself, but that’s an idea if you’re one of those people who likes rules and order in everything you do.
The Benefits of a Jar of Happiness
There are many benefits to having a jar of happiness, but these are some of our favorites.
1. It helps you realize that hard times never last
More than likely, you will always have more moments and memories in your jar of happiness than you have to pull out. Yes, there might be days when you feel the need to grab more than one good memory, but if you begin adding to the jar now, you’ll have more than enough good memories to think back on than you’ll have rough moments.
2. It helps reframe your perspective
If you zoom out on your life, you’ll probably see a ton of great memories. The trouble that we often get into when we’re dealing with hard or dark moments is that it’s hard to zoom out and see the good. When you train your brain in bad times to go to the jar and look for the good, then, at the end of the day, think through the day and see the good throughout it, you’re retraining your brain to focus on the positive.
3. It helps you remember some of the most powerful moments
Our days are full of millions of seemingly unimportant moments. But when you begin instituting the practice of adding to your jar of happiness every night, you’ll be able to see the good moments better and you can recall the times that you would have otherwise forgotten if you hadn’t written them down.
4. It Helps You Practice Gratitude
In the end, a jar of happiness is basically a physical reminder to practice gratitude. It helps you take in each day and remember the best of it rather than slinking back into a negative mindset. And practicing gratitude is not only good for your soul, it’s good for every part of you. Froh says, “Grateful people tend to be less stressed, anxious, and depressed…. They also tend to be more alert and happy.”