The Happiness Project
So this is a post which I wasn't planning on writing, but due to the thought provoking results I achieved I thought it would be beneficial to share it. It's based on a challenge I have been doing, similar to the ones which I'm sure everyone has done, such as the 30 day planking challenge that I'm currently struggling with. Unlike the other ones though, this challenge is catered towards improving yourself as well as benefitting people around you.
The challenge was the 21 Day Happiness Challenge.
My journey began two years ago, when an event occurred which left a lasting impression on me and has always been at the forefront of my mind, especially in recent times. A friend of mine took her own life at a time when it seemed that with all her ability, she could have achieved anything she wanted out of life. It came as a devastating surprise, as it is most of the time when these things occur, and had me question why it was an option when everything appeared to be going right.
Fast forward to 21 days ago. Upon reading several books, I came across 'The Happiness Advantage' by Shawn Achor, which helped me realise that society has conditioned our minds to focus on the negatives in life no matter how well our life may be. It highlighted the fact that it's not easy to just start thinking happy thoughts, as that isn't how our brains have developed, and to break the cycle it requires the same effort as breaking/starting any habit. While I won't go into it too much more about the book, it definitely interested me and resulted me in taking on the 21 Day Happiness Challenge.
As we all know, it takes 21 days to form a new habit, and mine was to focus on the positives in life. Among the things I had to do everyday, it included;
- 2 minutes of meditation
- 10 minutes of exercise
- write down three things you are grateful for
- write about a positive experience in the last 24 hours
- send a email/message to someone in your social circle to thank/praise them
While I was a bit skeptical at first, and it took a few days to get into it, it actually resulted in me reaching another level of inner happiness that I didn't imagine would happen when I started. Now before anyone questions it, I am very happy with my life, I am very grateful for everything I have been given, and have the most beautiful and loving wife and kids in the world. However, this book has shown me how minor perspective changes and activities can increase happiness not only at work but just in the overall mindset. The biggest surprise being the satisfaction of sending a message to someone within my social/work circle.
Every morning of the 21 days, I picked either a person from my family, close friends or support staff at work and took time to write a genuine message about how I felt towards them. Now, those who know me would normally consider me reserved and would most likely consider my message a prank/joke, or at least that's what I thought. After the first few days, I felt so ecstatic that I was able to highlight someone's positive qualities that I admired and what it meant to me, and be able to convey that in a message to them. While I did this with no expectation of a reply every time, the fact that everyone replied with appreciation, and sometimes returning the favour, gave me another dose of positivity to start the day and it was something that helped me make through some of those long days at work.
So now that I have completed this task, it has made me realise that there are so many things in life that we take for granted, whether it's big things such as our friendships or family, or something basic like clean water. It has highlighted why something as simple as a compliment or praise brings so much joy to everyone involved, yet it is not given freely enough as it takes too much effort or that we only see negatives in each other. We just need to come to the realisation that the way our brain functions and processes information is not set in stone, and we all have the potential to change. While not everyone I messaged knows of my challenge, I hope that they will now know and take the time and reflect back on how they felt when they received the message and how great it would feel to give that gift to someone else. This world could be a better place if we all took the time to focus on the positives in life and are brave enough to show love and compassion. Remember........you always get what you give.