If I could rename my project of several years ago, I would call it a Joy Journal rather than a Happiness Journal, because Happiness is fleeting while Joy can be found even in the darkest of times.
Alas, I didn’t totally understand that distinction at the time, and I got the idea from someone who called it a Happiness Journal. (Sadly, I can’t locate the article that inspired the project, so I can’t give credit, but thank you to her anyway.)
To this day, The Happiness Journal is probably the “work” project of which I am most proud.
The times were dark, not the deepest of darkness, probably just a shade of dull, medium gray. Things weren’t horrible at work, but they weren’t great either. Things were changing, pressure was increasing. People were feeling uncomfortable, pressured and a bit unhappy. The company was to blame for everything, of course. Isn’t that how it works? When we’re unhappy we tend to blame others, even when we know it’s not the best thing to do.
The company wasn’t really to blame, although no place is perfect. As a representative of the company in the form of an executive, however, I felt the burden of responsibility. But there were no easy business answers to be had. I couldn’t give everyone extra time off or big raises. I couldn’t change many of the deadlines. They were driven by legitimate business needs. So, what could I do to make things better? I felt helpless and as frustrated as my team members.
That’s when I stumbled on the article about the Happiness Journal. The concept is pretty simple. It’s about changing your perspective.
Acknowledging the positive. Being grateful. Being kind.
But those things are often the last things on our minds, especially when we are sad, upset, angry or hurting.
I decided to make journals for my staff and provide some incentive to use them. Optional, of course. All optional.
The goal was to use the journal for 21 days. Each day, you wrote the best thing that happened to you in the last 24 hours, three things for which you were grateful, and one act of kindness you had done for someone else. As a bonus, you could also record what you had done for 10 minutes ( or more) to get your blood flowing a little faster (exercise) and if you meditated for at least 2 minutes.
I gave people three choices. 1) To use the journal and demonstrate to me at the end of the 30 days that you had complied. This did not mean that I read any journals. I just confirmed that entries had been made. 2) To use the journal privately. 3) To recycle the journal and not participate at all.
For those who chose option one, there was a drawing for gift cards at the end of the 21 days. They were nice dollar amounts. I gave six, I think … or was it just three? No matter, there was incentive to participate.
I’d guess about two-thirds of the team used the journal, and about half of them showed me their journals to be entered in the drawing. The feedback that I got was amazing. (If you’ve done the 21 Days of Freedom Challenge, I shared on person’s thoughtful and appreciative response.)
What was even more amazing is how it brought the team together. People were going out of their way to be kind to one another, so they had something to record each day. I heard funny stories about what people did, including picking up coins, holding doors, carrying packages, and so on. It made every smile, even those that weren’t participating. It lightened the atmosphere.
And the gratitude, well, gratitude is a practice that is life changing. There are plenty of studies about how gratitude enhances our well-being, and I can’t promote it enough. Being grateful, even when you have to dig deep to find something to be grateful for, reminds us that there is hope, there is goodness, there is light.
When I left the company several years after the project, a surprising number of people thanked me again for introducing them to gratitude and conscious kindness. Some told me that they were still keeping a gratitude journal, that it had become a practice that continued to enhance their lives. I am incredibly grateful they shared.
It’s so often the simple things that bring us joy. The Joy Journal reminds us of that.
I encourage you to acknowledge the good in your life, practice gratitude, and be consciously kind. You’ll be surprised at how much it can change your life … or at the very least your attitude about life. (Exercise and meditation help, too, but more on that another time.)
I am grateful that you are sharing this journey with me. Thank you!
P.S. – Gratitude also played a big part in writing my recently released book, Ascending Ladders. Stay tuned for that article in the coming weeks.