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!

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  1. Love this idea Kathy...better perhaps than keeping a gratitude list. Definitely more visual. Hope your jar gets filled full. Hugs!

    1. Debbie--yes, definitely more visual! Sometimes I need that. I hope my jar fills up, too--and yours as well :)