The Key to Happiness

by | Writing Life

Paying tribute to small moments of happiness throughout your day imprints them on your memory, making your life richer and more colorful.

Often we don’t slow down enough to savor the bits of happy scattered throughout our days. Those all add up to happiness. Happiness is not some rosy high you walk around in all day like a fog. It’s appreciating the tiny joys and beauties in your daily life.

Stopping to smell the flowers is a cliché, but I think of it and laugh every time I find myself nose-deep in a cherry blossom, or pausing during a walk to savor freshly blooming lilacs. It truly does make my day sweeter. And capturing these moments in a journal deepens and lengthens them, gives them a life of their own.

The Happiness Project

During my (fabulous and indulgent) vacation last week, I came across an article in the March issue of Body + Soul magazine. The article provided several ways for becoming happier. One of them, of course, was keeping a journal.

The author interviewed Ariel Gore, who wrote Bluebird: Women and the New Psychology of Happiness. Gore had women in the study keep a happiness journal, where they wrote down bright moments that happened during the day.

I’m not surprised at the outcome: women who kept a journal and wrote about their happy times experienced an overall happier outlook than those who didn’t.

When I look back, those moments I detailed in writing are the ones that glow. They stand out. The tiniest things I catalogued in lists and prose swell in my memory. Like last winter, waking up to a foot of snow, Seattle ground to a halt. A mob of strangers coming together to help a girl push her car out of a snow bank. How everything glittered when the sun came out. How decadent it felt to not go to work simply because I couldn’t get there. Hiking to Rite Aid for a stack of magazines and black licorice. Walking knee deep in the snow taking photographs of vintage cars buried in white.

I carry these images fondly in my mind like snapshots because I wrote them down and they’ve become Polaroids of my history.

Don’t Just Write When You’re Happy

Daily journaling is the key to personal growth, so I don’t think you should write only when you’re happy. But if happiness is your goal right now, a state you’re actively seeking, try designating a few pages within your journal to catalog happy moments. Flag them with a sticky note so you can revisit that section regularly. Add to it as the days go on. Then during your regular journaling, write about the effect this happy list compilation has on your mood. See if it works for you.

Medical studies say that the physical act of smiling releases hormones and enzymes that make you feel good. If you created your own list of smile-inducing tidbits to revisit regularly, could you generate more smiles and increase your happiness quotient?

Give it a shot. Let me know what you discover.

Yours in journaling,

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