Why look far and wide for what ultimately comes from within?
I jumped on a trending hashtag: 100happydays.
The premise was to share a photo on Instagram of whatever made you happy for 100 days in a row. The key guideline was that:
“It is not a happiness competition or a showing off contest. If you try to please / make others jealous via your pictures — you lose without even starting. Same goes for cheating.”
Sharing the photos publicly held me accountable, enabled me to witness people’s journeys alongside my own, and served as a way to encourage each other collectively through the process.
My goal was to practice gratitude, identify what made me smile, create memories, start a new project at the start of the calendar year, and battle the winter blues.
I was in the midst of my fourth Chicago winter in the last year of college, and from past experience, winter presented the most mental health challenges.
As part of this practice, I captured anything that made me feel uplifted, motivated, inspired, grateful, appreciative, satisfied, or accomplished.
My mission was to make myself happy and it worked.
Here’s what I learned.
How to be honest with myself.
As I started posting things in my daily life that made me happy, anything that did the opposite also surfaced. Whatever diminished my joy and well-being came into quick, sharp focus.
For what felt like a long time coming, I finally broke ties with someone I’d been seeing for close to half a year who was emotionally unavailable. I addressed and removed myself from situations that didn’t maximize my happiness so I could focus instead on the things that did.
I learned that I’m worthy of joy, especially in the context of a relationship, so I ended my situationship, which was causing more angst than it was worth.
Easier said than done, but I knew I deserved better. I became a better version of myself by living in alignment with my truth and inherent worthiness.
Happiness is both intentional and random.
Some mornings, I woke up knowing that my scheduled lunch date, meetup, or event would be featured as my #100happydays on Instagram. Other days, I looked forward to what the day had in store.
I was able to create my own happiness, but I also did not force it. The sweetest moments I captured happened organically when I stumbled upon them rather than the moments I created myself.
Looking back, my happiest moments originated from interacting with friends, and, even more importantly, from the relationship I nurtured with myself. I adopted an attitude to let things be the way they are rather than the way I wanted them to be.
My happiest moments did not cost a dime.
One day as I walked home from running errands, I decided to treat myself to a donut from Dunkin. Sometimes, it feels like you have to go out of your own way to make yourself happy; be intentional about it.
I bought the donut, got home, took a picture, posted it, and ate it. Something felt off. No real satisfaction, fulfillment, or reward.
Oh well, I thought, as I moved on with my day.
I hit the gym, showered, and headed straight to the library to bust out more work. By then, it was well into the night.
Finally, I got home at 1 a.m. I was exhausted and ready to flop into bed. As I walk into the dining room, I see a drawing on our shared whiteboard by my roommate.
It was a stick figure of a girl, sitting cross-legged, eyes closed in meditation, her hands in prayer near her heart. The word “breathe” was written on top.
After a long day, that sight was just what I needed. My shoulders relaxed instantly and I let out a sigh of relief. And that’s the snap that ended up on my gram instead of the donut. Unlike Dunkin, it did not cost me money, and the moment was completely random, organic, and unforced — what some may call stumbling upon happiness.
I am enough.
I didn’t need to look far and wide for what ultimately comes from within.
I learned to accept myself for who I am and to allow myself to fully experience self-love. I learned to feel comfortable on my own. I am enough. Self-sufficient, self-sustaining. I just need to rely and depend on me, tend to my wants and needs, stick to my values, and stand up for myself. I know that if I ever want to get anything done, I need to count on myself. Whether it means to ask for help and support or to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
I am thankful to everyone who played a part in this journey and contributed to my happy moments, including the loyal IG followers who encouraged me along the way. Those 100 days were not full of rainbows and butterflies.
On the contrary, they were challenging as they were the pinnacle of a transitional and high-stress season. Still, it was a blessing to have experienced how many wonderful moments each day offers among the chaos of life.