I don’t like internet memes as a general rule.
My default position is that if you need a hashtag or inspirational graphic to tell you how to live a better life, you’re doing something wrong. Even if it involves an air-punching baby.
And then I tried #100happydays.
Right from day one, I was curious. Would I make it to the end? Apparently 71% of those who start don’t cross the finish line. How would it feel? What would be different? The official website of the movement makes all sorts of ambitious claims about people noticing what makes them happy, being in a better mood every day, getting compliments from others, realising how lucky they are to have the life that they have, being more optimistic, and even falling in love during the challenge.
From about day 60, I started getting nervous. What if, when it all ended, I stopped being happy? What should I do next? Should I just carry on indefinitely spamming people’s social media with pictures of my ride to work, of my mum eating chips, of me on the beach or all of the other stuff that’s made me smile over the last few months?
Now it’s here, now it’s really over, I know the answers.
I’ve looked back at those ambitious claims.
And I’m still single.
But other than that, every last one of those things has come true.
And it doesn’t stop there.
I finally understand that saying about happiness being a journey and not a destination. That it’s fine, even essential, to have goals and targets to work towards that will give long term gratification. But that it’s just as important to appreciate the things you already have – particularly the little things that are sometimes hard to notice. And that the days when nothing feels good about the world are when it’s most important of all to find or create something that makes you feel glad to be alive.
I haven’t just learned what makes me happy. I’ve learned what happiness is.
So where do I go from here?
I dabbled with the idea of extending the challenge (#wholeyearofhappy crossed my mind) but decided against for two reasons. Firstly I’m going abroad on holiday in a few months and the mobile data roaming charges would’ve been horrendous. But more importantly, at some point I’d either have to stop on my own terms, or fail. I don’t want it to end like that, so it makes sense to stop here, after 100 days, where I’d originally intended it would.
That doesn’t mean it’s over. What I’ve learned over the last 2400 hours will, I hope, stay with me for the rest of my life. I’m considering making it an annual event.
A number of people started this challenge with me. None of them made it to the end. I’ve wondered why. Maybe I’ve been lucky. Maybe my 100 days were easy. I’m physically and mentally healthy. Nobody I love died, had an accident or got ill. I’ve still got a job, and somewhere nice to live. Maybe if I’d had to deal with some of those sort of challenges along the way, I wouldn’t have got this far. Who knows. What I did learn is that there are days when it takes more effort to be happy than not. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.
So if you’re one of the people who’s been playing along, or quite fancies having a go but doesn’t think they can make it, my challenge to you is to go for it.
You never know where you’ll end up.