How to Be Happy

posted by Aby Garvey on March 26, 2014 7 Comments

As you may remember, in 2013 I selected “happy” as my focal point word for the year. It was an interesting choice, especially when you consider where I came from. See, at one point in my life I believed that happiness was something that happens to us. I thought happiness was outside of our control. If things are going great, we will be happy. If things aren’t going so great, then we won’t be happy.

It probably isn’t a great surprise that in my younger years, I was, in general, a lot less happy than I am now. In fact, I remember being at a basketball game (probably in early high school) and one of my friend’s moms asked her if I was okay. She commented that I always looked so unhappy. I don’t know what was going on in my life at that time to cause my undeniable look of unhappiness. But I do know this: at that time, I believed my own happiness was outside of my control. And perhaps that is why I wasn’t happy.

What I have learned since then is that while there is much in our lives that we can’t control, happiness isn’t one of those things. We can choose to be happy, even in the midst of unhappy times and circumstances. We can look for things that make us smile, make us laugh and make us feel good. Anytime and all the time. Happiness is always our choice. This is one of the greatest lessons I learned from my Dad, who smiled and laughed all the way through cancer. He literally told us jokes the day before he died.

Happiness is a choice.

It bears repeating and it also bears intentionally putting into practice. A few weeks ago I decided to do just that—intentionally practice choosing happiness. I saw one of my Facebook friends had joined the 100 days of happiness challenge, and it was then that I decided to make happiness a higher priority in my life once again.

The challenge is simple enough. To participate, all you do is submit a picture of what made you happy everyday for 100 days. That’s it. The website explains that the photo can be anything from “a meet-up with a friend to a very tasty cake in the nearby coffee place, from a feeling of being at home after a hard day to a favor you did for a stranger.”

100 Happy Days Challenge - Days 1-9

Here’s what really got me. The website states that 71% of the people who tried to complete this challenge failed. The main reason cited: lack of time! This really connected with me. What could be more important to spend time on than happiness? (Nothing!) When you recognize what makes you happy, you feel happier, and those feelings impact everything you do. Your happiness spills onto everyone you meet. (Don’t believe me? In the last week Jay told me I seem happier. This after just 24 days of doing the happiness challenge.) It works.

What I’m seeing so far is something I already knew: for the most part, it is the simple things that make me happy—food, time spent with family and friends, accomplishing goals and seeing others achieve a goal of their own. Simple stuff. Good stuff.

100 Happy Days Challenge - Days 10-18

Want to follow along day by day for the rest of the challenge (or find out what these pictures represent?) Follow me on Instagram for the 100 happy days play-by-play. 

100 Happy Days Challenge - Days 19-21

What do you think? Do you have the time to make happiness a priority in your life? Do you think it’s that easy, or is their more to it? Let me know your thoughts and be sure to let me know if you’re inspired to take the happiness challenge yourself. Thanks for sharing!


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Aby Garvey is a creative organizing expert and simplify 101’s founder. She has created 14 online organizing classes, which she has been teaching since 2007, helping thousands of people around the world get organized. Aby loves to help people create positive change in their lives through her online classes and coaching program

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  • March 26, 2014 at 3:31 pm

    I may not take part in the picture posting but I have own little happiness reminder. If you ask me how I’m doing I will generally answer with “it’s a wonderful life” and I always smile. It usually makes the other person smile. Sometimes I get a funny look and I explain that since I’m vertical & breathing I can’t be too unhappy. I’m 54 and my father died at the age of 36 so I know this is all temporary and we better make the best of it!

    April 3, 2014 at 2:24 pm

    Great philosophy! Thanks for sharing. :)

    • March 26, 2014 at 4:51 pm

      On Facebook, I have a photo album I started this year: “Small things that make me happy”. Each day I post something that makes me smile/happy, something besides my family. This gives me a goal to be on the lookout everyday for that little thing that makes me smile. The first day, it was a picture of my crafting table. Another day, it was the clock when it was quitting time. And another was a chocolate milkshake. And so on. Now I find that I could post several photos a day. This is not to say I don’t have bad days, but it sure motivates me even more to look for that “little happy.”

      April 3, 2014 at 2:24 pm

      I think that finding something to feel good about and smile about on bad days is part of the magic of a project like this. :) Thanks for your comment!

      • March 27, 2014 at 1:19 pm

        Have you read “Happier At Home,” by Gretchen Rubin? Both of her happiness projects are interesting, as she concentrates on figuring how to be happy while still being herself. Love all of the great ideas the internet, bookstores, and the library make available these days!

        April 3, 2014 at 2:23 pm

        I haven’t read that one…I did read The Happiness Project. May have to get her next book a read, too. Thanks for mentioning it!

        • October 31, 2014 at 1:52 pm

          I’m going to try the happiness challenge. My busy-ness makes me forgetful, so the hardest part may be remembering for 100 days straight to upload a picture. ;)