All across my social media feeds friends are finishing up their "100 happy days" - a challenge to post a picture every day for…yes, 100 days of whatever makes you happy. Recently, facebook and the like are awash with challenges ranging in temperature and duration. 100 days being the longest I’ve seen.
And I can proudly say - I did not finish this challenge. And I’m totally a-ok with it.
Despite the guilt trippy way the official challenge tries to lure people into starting it, I do believe in the power of active gratitude so I’m glad I took part. I actually really enjoyed it while I did it. And that’s exactly it - once I stopped enjoying it - I stopped.
I kind of think it’s a lesson I’m learning. It’s ok to try something good, and challenging - and it’s ok to stop when you need to stop.
It’s a difficult balance isn’t it? Knowing how to challenge yourself and also knowing when to let go and not feel compelled by some twisted sense of obligation.
Like exercise - you won’t benefit if you stop as soon as the burn begins, you’ve got to push through the pain a bit - but there does come a point where you need to stop - or you’ll injure yourself and BE in pain for a long time to come. And sometimes the line between the two is a bit blurry isn’t it?
It can be for me.
And so my 69 days of happiness experiment makes me realize a few things:
It’s good to make a habit of stopping to notice.
It’s usually the small things in my life that make me happy. Sure - big things can happen that are great, (I won an award, and went to New York City! ) but its really the cummulative effect of small goodness in life that does the trick. Small things that I may not fully appreciate unless I actively open my eyes and take it in and feel it.
I think we get tricked into believing that happiness looks like those people on American Home Makeover who jump up and down screaming and crying “Ohh Maa Gawwd!…Ooooohh Maah Gawd! This bathroom is amazeee…”
We imagine that happiness will hit us like a Mack Truck and knock us over and we could never miss it.
But I think it’s the opposite.
If I look at back at my photos it’s things like the feeling after a good workout, sitting watching cartoons with my friends’ 5 year old, watching the dogs play in the yard or picking a fresh home grown tomato. And my small things might not be your small things, but because I took the time to notice them I feel very grateful. And feeling grateful, makes us happier.
Because we’re always busy, always going, always doing, small things are harder to really notice and hold onto. So like David Steindl-Rast says, we have to build stop signs into our lives. So this project was like a stop sign for me. Stop. Pay attention. See your life and take it in and appreciate it.
On the flip side of the coin, 100happydays also made me realize - I need to be ok with quitting when I need to quit.
How do all the sayings go? The Fitspo pinterest pages?
“Feel the burn”
“Push through the pain”
“Fake it til you make it…”
*Plus- 69’s more fun ;)
And there is the time for all that…
But there is also the time to be ok with not being ok.
To be ok with admitting that, for short while, maybe you aren’t happy and you can’t fake it and it’s not time to push through the pain, because pain is not always gain.
Having a sense of duty is good, and sticking to your obligations is important.
Pushing through the challenges is how we grow.
But sometimes even the best of us need a break.
Don’t run marathons on a broken leg.
And don’t then beat yourself up because you aren’t running marathons.
Every now and then you have to allow yourself to be not ok.
Allow yourself time to heal whatever it is that’s gone awry…
It takes stopping to notice that too. To feel that for a while.
If you’ve been pretending - give yourself permission to stop.
Pretending can suck the life out of you.
Stop with the the obligations and the challenging yourself and give yourself a break until you can breathe again.
And then once you can breathe clearly, you get to see the small beautiful things that make you grateful in a brighter fresher light.
And then you realize you’ve stopped pretending.
So have I been happy every day for 100 days?
But I’m realizing that’s not so bad.
I’m grateful that on the days I’m not happy, on the days I can’t fake it…
I’ve got friends who listen until I start to see clearly again.
I’m grateful that for every night there’s a day and that everyday is a new chance to stop and see the good things.