The creator of the project, Dmitry Golubnichy, lives in Zurich and developed the concept last fall after visiting with friends. He was complaining about his life and his problems when his friends nearly hit him upside the head–his life was amazing, couldn’t he see that?! Well, actually, no. Like most of us he was caught up in the minutiae of the day-to-day and had lost perspective of what was wonderful and beautiful in his life. He decided to document what made him happy for the next 100 days, positing a picture of a piece of happiness onto his preferred social media platform.
What started out as a personal challenge has become a global movement, though he is reluctant to use that exact word. Indeed, people from over 170 countries now participate in the hashtag challenge and as of today there are almost 17,000,000 posts on Instagram alone. That’s million with an m.
Through email exchanges with participants and large surveys, Golubnichy, originally from Latvia, found that people who completed the full 100-day project reported feeling at least 20% happier than they did at the beginning of the challenge. It’s an exercise in relishing the little joys and small happinesses that we encounter each day.
So, what are your thoughts? Initially, I think this is a great idea, especially for finding ways to not take our blessings and joys for granted. I live a pretty grand life and I think this challenge would help me appreciate and accept the little victories.
On the other hand, I’m more and more convinced that our goal as humans is not only to pursue happiness, or even to be happy all the time. Constant happiness does not make us more well-rounded or interesting people. We need sadness and humility and heartbreak to feel life in its fullest capacity and denying those contrasting feelings isn’t healthy or satisfying. I really love this quote from The Good Life that helps explain more what I mean:
Wholeness is what we ought to be striving for and part of that is sadness, disappointment, frustration, failure; all of those things which make us who we are. Happiness and victory and fulfillment are nice little things that also happen to us, but they don’t teach us much. Everyone says we grow through pain and then as soon as they experience pain they say, “Quick! Move on! Cheer up!” I’d like just for a year to have a moratorium on the word “happiness” and to replace it with the word “wholeness.” Ask yourself, “Is this contributing to my wholeness?” and if you’re having a bad day, it is.
In a personal sense, this philosophy directly applies to the past year. Adam and I have been in Switzerland for a full year as of this weekend and it certainly has not all been happy times and upbeat days. There were a lot of low points, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been a good or meaningful experience, because it has. It has made me grow and change in innumerable ways and I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunities we’ve had. I haven’t been happy for a full year but I am satisfied with what has transpired, both good and bad.
These two approaches are very conflicting ideas, yet both valid and deserving of attention and debate. In some ways, I’m sure this falls on the glass half-full or half-empty spectrum, but I’m not ready to consider myself a pessimist simply because I don’t believe in constantly striving for happiness. I do, however, like the idea of finding pleasure in the everyday and celebrating small joys simply for finding perspective and contentment.
What about you? Do you lean one way more than the other? Have you participated in the challenge? I would love to hear how it went! Or, are you thinking about trying it? Should we all?