If you've been following Positively Present for awhile, you might recall that, back at the beginning of 2013, I decided to create a jar of happy things to fill in the year ahead. During 2013, I collected my favorite moments of the year—everything from the little things, like a joke that had me cracking up, to the big things, like signing my first book deal!—by writing them down on bright scraps of paper and storing them in a jar. (To my surprise, I filled up the jar quickly and had to buy another one!) It was a simple exercise—all I had to do was jot down my favorite moments and stash them away—but it turned out to be a really worthwhile activity, loaded with surprising, positive benefits.
While collecting my moments for 365 days, I didn't think too much about it. My focus wasn't on what I was getting from writing down these little moments, but instead on simply celebrating the moments and feeling joyful as I wrote them down and stored them. However, when I cracked open those jars on January 1, 2014 (a day later than I'd initially planned, but actually a nice way to kick off the new year), I realized that the months and months of jotting down these happy moments actually had some really wonderful benefits. Here's the benefits I reaped from doing this little project—and benefits I think you too could reap if you decide to give something like this a try in 2014:
YOU NOTICE WHAT MATTERS MOST TO YOU.
When I opened up those jars and started unfolding all of those pieces of paper, I was surprised by some of the things I'd written down. In particular, a lot of my notes started with "Cracking up about..." or "Laughing so hard over..." While I would be the first to admit that I love to laugh, seeing all of these laugh-out-loud moments captured throughout the year made me realize how important laughter is to my happiness. (Also important to my happiness are friends, dogs, and creating things.) I didn't expect this to be a soul-searching sort of exercise, but it ended up turning into one, showing me the things that mattered most to me in 2013 and reminding me to focus on these things more in the year ahead.
YOU FEEL INCREDIBLY GRATEFUL.
While unfolding the notes, I was surprised by how grateful I felt for all of the happy moments I'd experienced throughout 2013. When I thought back on the year, as I often do at year's end, I considered it to be a pretty good year. But when I looked through all of my notes, unfolding all of those little moments of joy, I was overwhelmed by how many great things had happened in just 365 days—many of which I'd forgotten all about. I also noticed how frequently certain people were mentioned, making me realize how valuable (and positive!) some people are in my life, and filling my heart with gratitude for those who matter most to me.
YOU FOCUS ON LIFE'S POSITIVE MOMENTS.
One of the best things about creating this jar was the push it gave me to focus on the positive moments in my life. It's really hard not to dwell on the things that go wrong. (It's human nature I think, to ruminate on the tough stuff, maybe as a way to protect ourselves from future pain.) But with this jar in the back of my mind, I found myself looking for the little positive moments, searching for things to write down and store in the jar. The more I looked for those moments, the more I found them. And writing them down later brought back a feeling of joy similar to what I'd experienced in the moment itself, almost as if I got a two-for-one deal on positive feelings.
YOU CREATE A SIMPLE, POSITIVE HABIT.
Creating habits isn't all that hard. Creating positive habits, on the other hand, can be a bit of a challenge. Having this jar helped me to create a habit that was both positive and relatively simple. I clearly got a lot out of storing notes in the jar all year long (much more than I thought I would!), and it was relatively easy to do, making it a great habit. Anything that's simple but offers lots of benefits is a great sort of habit to start, don't you think? There aren't too many of those habits out there (at least, not to my knowledge) and I'm so glad that I picked up this one, a habit I'm hoping to continue for many more years to come.
YOU CELEBRATE THE LITTLE THINGS.
When it comes to life's happy moments, we often spend a lot of time celebrating the big events—birthdays, graduations, new babies, new puppies, big wins at work—and sometimes the little moments get overlooked or forgotten. When I kept this little jar right by my desk, I was constantly reminded to look for things to celebrate, causing me to look past the big events and seek the little moments of joy that happen almost every single day. For example, I found joy not just in the day my new puppy, Barkley, arrived, but also in the first time she was confused by the sight of a firefly or the first time she tentatively touched snow. All of the little moments were recorded, providing me with a much more robust view of joy I'd experienced when I looked back on the year.
I loved this little project so much that I'm going to do it again in 2014, but I've decided to switch it up a little bit. My one issue with doing this was that I don't know what to do with all of these little scraps of paper now that the year's over. I don't want to throw them away, but I'm a big fan of eliminating clutter (and nothing says clutter like hundreds of scraps of paper!). So I did some searching online and found something that I can use year after year—and something that will sit neatly on the shelf next to my desk without looking as unruly as a scrap-filled jar. (No offense, jar. It was good while it lasted.) I found these Perpetual Calendar Pages on Etsy and purchase them with a gift card I'd received for Christmas (thanks, McNeal family!). I love the organization of the tabs and dated cards, and I really love the fact that I can use them year after year after year.
In 2013, I didn't write something down on a daily basis—only when the mood struck me—but I think this new layout will encourage me to find something worthwhile in every single day, which will be a great way to stay positive all year long. Now all I need to do is find (or make?) something colorful to store those cards in so that it catches my eye and reminds me to jot down all the happy things this year will surely send my way...