Do You Need to Be Happy to Feel Hopeful?

January 28, 2022

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

“Hope isn’t the same thing as happiness. You don’t need to be happy to be hopeful. You need instead to accept the unknowability of the future, and that there are versions of that future that could be better than the current one. Hope, in its simplest form, is the acceptance of possibility.

“The acceptance that if we are suddenly lost in a forest, there will be a way through.”

—Matt Haig, The Comfort Book


Holding on to Happiness: Creating a Happiness Jar

January 21, 2022


Quick, tell me three happy things that happened this week. They can be small or large, they just have to be something you noticed and took pleasure in.

Surprisingly hard, isn’t it? It’s so much easier to remember the trauma, the disasters and catastrophes, than it is to remember the quiet little moments that actually make up most of our day-to-day lives. I wanted to change that for 2022, and one of my solutions is the Happiness Jar.

Happy little things

I can’t take credit for the Happiness Jar. The original concept, which I’ve seen attributed to author Elizabeth Gilbert, is to jot down one thing you’re happy about or grateful for every day and store it in a jar. At the end of the year, read all the good things that happened to you over the past 12 months.

I’m tweaking it a little. Instead of one thing every day, which seems overwhelming to me (and not simpler), I’m going with a minimum of one per week, with the option to put in more if I so choose. At the very least, I’ll have 52 slips of paper, and that’s a lot of happy little things! Since Jan. 1, there was one (rough) week where I had just one good thing to put in. But last week, I already had two by Wednesday. 

Focusing on recording the happy little things has made me start to look for things to write down, and to schedule things to look forward to. I think this is going to be the gentle nudge I needed to start planning a few more simple pleasures and everyday adventures.

Another great thing about this practice is the happy little things can be really little…and they can (and should) be things that you find happy/uplifting/funny/awesome/fill-in-the-blank. This is a personal practice, intended for your eyes only.

As Liz Gilbert wrote, “In fact, my happiest moment each day is usually just a glance of something sweet and small, an unexpected flush of emotion, a bit of sun on my face, a pleasant encounter on the sidewalk, a cool glass of water at just the right instant, the cat-like contentment after a nap, a glimpse of a bird just out of the corner of my eye, a recognition of some tiny lovely thing.”

I thought you might enjoy seeing this little project come together, so here are a few photos. You'll see I had a lot of “help.” I was lucky enough to have a bunch of cute papercrafts given to me by a friend that I could use to decorate my jar.  And to jot down my happy little things, I’m using pages from a mini notebook someone else gave me. So much happiness and affection in this one small package!

Started with a plain canning jar and a small notebook

Took the ribbon out of the cat’s mouth

The finished product

Containing your happiness

Of course, you don’t need to buy or make anything special to record the happy little things that happen. You can keep a journal of happy, either handwritten or on your computer. You can take a photo of what brings you joy and create a folder to keep the pictures in. You can look at your happy little things every week, every month, once a year, or never. This is YOUR happiness, and YOUR happiness jar should you decide to actually use a jar! There aren’t any rules! (Type “Happiness Jar” into your search engine and you’ll find a multitude of photos and tutorials if you want some additional inspiration.)

The point of the Happiness Jar is to pay attention to and record good things. We all have them, even in the depths of crisis and despair. Maybe this will help us hold onto them a little tighter.

How do you record happy little things? Please share in the comments below. And do let me know if you decide to do a happiness jar of your own!


First Thoughts for 2022

January 14, 2022

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

How have the first two weeks of the new year been treating you?

I’m finally taking a breath after a whirlwind last couple of weeks of 2021, another year I’m not sorry to put behind me. I’ve spent the last couple of weeks recovering (I’m so tired…you?) and regrouping. (Read: digging out my office which has become, once again, a Pit of Despair.)

The beginning of a new year is a natural place to think about goals and changes you want to make. But this year, instead of planning a whole year’s worth of goals, or diving head first into the deep end, I’m taking a gentler approach overall. For example:

Word of the year

Remember my word of the year (WOTY), dare, from last year? Probably not, because after that first optimistic post, I don’t think I revisited it on the blog even once. And not much more often in private. Too many varied and disrupting events took place in 2021, and dare just didn’t fit well with how the year played out. In this instance, choosing a word of the year was kind of like when health experts try to match the annual flu vaccine with the flu strains expected to be circulating…and fail!

In retrospect, a better WOTY for 2021 would have been “survive.”

So anyway, as 2021 wound down, a word kept reappearing in my consciousness, and as I usually do when that happens, I’ve taken it as my WOTY for 2022:


Not shiny or glamorous, but fitting, in that the past two years have made me hunker down and reevaluate my life in unexpected ways. I’m looking forward to seeing how simpler influences how the year unfolds. Two things that come to mind immediately are the way I cook (my menu planning and cooking need a revamp that makes them simpler) and what I concentrate on in my writing. I’ve been chasing too many different types of writing projects and I’ve managed both to lose the joy of writing as well as dilute my focus and skill level. I’m sure more will come to my attention as the year goes on.

(Two of my online friends have also chosen words of the year. Read their posts here and here.)

Goal setting/yearly planning

I’m very good at complicating things, overscheduling, and being wound too tightly. Rushing, rushing, rushing. Fitting more in when I should take more time to do fewer things. (Another way in which simpler may help.)

I came across this sentence in something I read (forgive me, I can’t remember where I found it), and this sums up what I want for 2022:

“I want a year of ease and serendipity and settling into the spaces of my life in a way that feels organic instead of molded to fit arbitrary goals I set for myself.”

I’m slowing way down. Being a lot more deliberate. There are a few things on my “I’d like to accomplish” list for 2022. I’m using Gretchen Rubin’s “22 for 22” framework, but I only have about 10 things listed so far. 

What I’m not doing

I’m not doing any reading challenges. I’m not going on a diet. I’m not “making big plans,” at least not yet. 

And speaking of plans, I just finished reading Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals, by Oliver Burkeman (Amazon, Bookshop, no affiliation), which is not about time management in the traditional way at all. This passage resonated:

“…planning is an essential tool for constructing a meaningful life, and for exercising our responsibilities toward other people. The real problem isn’t planning. It’s that we take our plans to be something they aren’t. What we forget, or can’t bear to confront, is that, in the words of the American meditation teacher Joseph Goldstein, ‘a plan is just a thought.’ We treat our plans as though they are a lasso, thrown from the present around the future, in order to bring it under our command. But all a plan is—all it could ever possibly be—is a present-moment statement of intent. It’s an expression of your current thoughts about how you’d ideally like to deploy your modest influence over the future. The future, of course, is under no obligation to comply.”

Almost none of my plans over the past two years have come to fruition. I’m disappointed, but at the same time, simply grateful to be alive and relatively unscathed. I’m not even going to try to guess what 2022 holds, but I am going to stay optimistic and open. To continue to embrace simple pleasures and everyday adventures—and to share any happy discoveries with you.

Do you have any special plans for 2022? What is your word of the year?

For more easy, beginning-of-the-year inspiration, check out these links:

The Soul + Wit podcast, “Less Hustle, More Happiness.” 

The Action for Happiness Happier January calendar.