John William Tuohy lives in Washington DC

Happiness jars: Experiencing gratitude each day


Happiness jars: Experiencing gratitude each day By Abby Humphreys 

Though returning to school after the holidays may be refreshing for some, the start of a new semester can leave others feeling rushed and out of place from the first day onward.

I can’t be the only one who has resorted to a zombie-like state of living in the first weeks after the New Year. In between lectures, homework and dreary walks to class, the days may begin to blur together and cultivate doubt or despair in even the most positive of people.

The issue lies not in life’s current circumstances, but in the way our minds perceive them. Daily achievements and small victories are often overlooked if stressors like exams or presentations are always on our minds, as worry is a more mentally demanding emotion than satisfaction.

However, there is an easy fix to feeling down, and all it takes is an empty jar and an ounce or two of creativity.

The happiness jar was born from the mixing of Buddhist principles with do-it-yourself websites like Pinterest. Though there are many variations of the craft online, the most basic instructions are to decorate a jar of your choosing and drop small notes containing things you are thankful for inside throughout the year.

When this practice becomes a daily habit, it promotes being present and aware of every moment, and it can bring a certain amount of uniqueness to each day which might otherwise be lost in monotony.

I made my first happiness jar at the beginning of 2014, and after just a few days, I noticed both my memory and mood improving. Instead of unconsciously ruminating on having a bad meal or procrastinating on a paper, I felt more aware of the small good moments of each day by making a mental note to record them in my happiness jar.

Today, I’m happy to say being grateful is something I now do automatically. I’ve found even on the worst days, finding time to record something as small as watching a good TV show or indulging in a few Oreos makes a difference in how I remember each day in the future.

Simply because I made a conscious effort to remember the good over the bad, I noticed my outlook on life changed dramatically over the course of just a few months.

At the end of the year, busting my happiness jar open and seeing just how many good moments I might have otherwise forgotten about brought new hope for 2015. The typical dread at starting a new school year was replaced with excitement and enthusiasm for the first time since elementary school.

Keeping a happiness jar is a fun and meaningful way to inspire the healthy habit of being thankful for life’s daily successes. Most importantly, it teaches we are in charge of how we remember the way our life unfolds.

Numerous philosophers and religious figures have spoken on the subject for centuries, but I believe a certain Jedi said it best: “Always remember, your focus determines your reality.”



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