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Through a Lens of Gratitude: Lessons from 100 Days of Happiness

If someone were to ask you about your happiest moment yesterday, would you have an answer?

How about your happiest moment of 3 months ago?

I’ve got an answer for at least 100 of my recent days – and a new perspective on gratitude, thanks to the 100 Happy Days project.

The challenge couldn’t be simpler: Take a photo of just one thing that makes you happy each day for 100 days.

I knew a bit of what was in store for me once I began chronicling my moments of happy because I first came to know the challenge though my teammate Rodolphe’s excellent experience with it. But along the way, I made a few unexpected discoveries about happiness and gratitude. I’d love to share them with you.

My happiness made others happy!

I had anticipated that my 100 happy days photos would potentially bore most of my small group of followers and possibly even annoy them a bit. But as it turns out, quite the opposite was true.

I heard from a number of friends who were following along with my adventures, some of whom even began their own challenges after witnessing mine.

Lots of friends were curious about the photos and asked me thoughtful questions about the challenge. And I heard way more often than I had expected that my followers were actually looking forward to my daily “happy photo.”

I began this challenge as a way to focus on my own gratitude, but to think that I might have brought even a fraction of what I experienced to others in my life feels really great.

It doesn’t take much to make me happy

I had some spectacularly awesome days throughout the 3-month span of 100 Happy Days: I ran around New York City with my awesome coworkers! I jumped off a waterfall with friends! I rode a 4-wheeler with my 93-year-old grandfather!

An “easy happy” day: Hiking and waterfall fun

And I also had some super regular days, where I worked hard at Buffer and pet my dog and hung out with my husband and maybe went to the grocery store and that was pretty much it.

It’s easy to be grateful on days you’re doing something really cool. Who wouldn’t be?

The real trick of practicing happiness seems to be find what’s beautiful and special and worth being grateful for on those other days, the days where you’re just cooking dinner or doing laundry or taking a walk.

The Nashville Farmers Market, arguably less exciting but no less happy than the waterfall.

On those days, of which there were many, it was a soul-nurturing delight to find hidden wells of joy in a conversation with a friend, a good book, or a good glass of wine.

All the days of our life are worthwhile ones, and none of us has time to waste taking any for granted. But seizing and appreciating the day doesn’t mean you have to go skydiving or BASE jumping. It can mean appreciating the small, meaningful moments, too.

More motivation, more happiness

On the other side of the spectrum, having the 100 Happy Days challenge on my mind sometimes led me to seek out fun deeds or new activities that I might have put off or not considered at all otherwise.

On one “happy day,” I brought these Tennessee-shaped sugar cookies to the volunteers manning the polls for a local election.

During those moments, I thought about a concept we talk about at Buffer a lot: avoiding the deferred life.

The time might never be perfectly right for all the things you want to do. You might not ever have enough money, or a perfectly secure plan. But instead of waiting for a moment that might never arrive, why not make something happen now, while you can?

My friend Mari (an awe-inspiring and gratitude-filled entrepreneur) took on the challenge alongside me, and when I asked her about the experience she had a similar finding.

“I think mostly it was about the fact that you found joy in even the most seemingly insignificant moments,” she said. “On the flip side, I felt like I also created experiences to document something that made me happy that day, so it forced me to focus on intentional happiness.”

The combination of those two elements – seeking happiness in small moments and creating more opportunity for happiness every day – made for a deep awareness that I hope to extend far beyond 100 days.

The photos, by the numbers

Over the course of the 100 days, I took:

15.5 pictures of dogs (The .5 was a dog doormat)

13 pictures of family/friends

12 pictures of food/beverages

11 pictures of plants

11 pictures on or of water (beach, waterfall, lake)

8 pictures that include my husband

4 pictures that include me

Pictures of 4 different cities: Nashville, TN; Memphis, TN; New York, NY and Portland, ME

Are you up for the challenge?

A crazy stat from 100 Happy Days: 71% of those who try the challenge don’t complete it, citing lack of time as the main reason.

Though I did have to make up a few lost days here and there, I’m grateful to have had the chance to complete the challenge and build a stronger habit of gratitude everyday. In fact, I think it might actually be hard to stop now!

Could it be the right challenge for you? Sign up and give it a try. And if you’ve ever tried a happiness or gratitude experience or exercise, I’d love to hear how it went for you in the comments!

  • If I did this, every day’s picture would be of chocolate. That’s probably why I felt weird trying it, haha. I’ve done challenges like this privately, but never took the jump to try one on social. I don’t know why, since I share a lot of my life’s details online already, so I shouldn’t feel weird about it.

    • Chocolate is always something worth being happy about! I did have a pretty major segment of food photos. :) It’s interesting to find out what really makes us happy!

  • Onoreno DiNardo Jr.

    Seems like a good plan to try. I’ll take up the challenge then. for status

    I think my biggest challenge will be to avoid 50 pictures of my partner. Or 50 pictures of album covers while music is playing on my phone. (The key is, what makes ME happy, not what others would recognize, or what would make them happy.)

    I’ve done this in shorter and less focused periods, but have enjoyed it. I think though that attempting to do it for 100 days is quite a bit of time, and is likely to have interesting effects, as you said. I think looking for the opportunity is probably going to be highly engaging, and likely to change my attitude as to what is possible and practical..

    • Congrats on getting started with the challenge, Onoreno! 50 pictures of album covers sounds pretty great to me!

  • Awesome idea, signing up now! Always looking for new ways to increase positivity :D Thanks for sharing, Courtney!

  • steinm10

    Just joined the challenge. I’m also doing a 365 day photography challenge. Before you know it, more happiness and life adventures will be engrained into my daily routine.

    • Wow, two challenges in one! Sounds like you’ll be very well documented! Enjoy the challenge!

      • steinm10

        Thanks Courtney!

  • I did this! I only missed one day, but I made up for it the next day. I loved how it made me appreciate the people, activities, and of course, animals around me. I’ve always loved taking pictures and keeping a journal, but the 100 happy days challenge really was a great motivator!
    Oh, and I absolutely LOVE that 15 (or 15.5) of your photos are of dogs. Spazette would love to meet you. :-P

    • Hi Annaliese! Oh man, that is one cute dog! Thanks for sharing lovely Spazette with us here! And giant congrats on completing your challenge!

  • Oh well, your post Courtney was in my reading list for a month.Now is the time to start the 100 happy day challenge. Thanks for the inspiration. Going to use Instagram for this challenge :)

  • 8ighthwonder

    Great project! We need more people like you!!!

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