Benefits of a Happy Jar

Confession time: I am a Pinterest addict. I blame my good friend, Susie, who discovered the site first and gushed about it. When I first took a peek, I didn’t get the attraction. Then she told me Pinterest could help me promote my blog.

Well, that got me going. However, once I started pinning, it didn’t stop with Baby Boomer Bliss pins. Oh no, soon I was pinning healthy recipes, classy clothes, travel ideas, decorating hints, words of wisdom – well, shamefully the list goes on and on.

happiness jar 2But you do find some interesting things there. One day a pin caught my eye: a photo of a happiness jar.

When I googled “happiness jar,” I discovered that Elizabeth Gilbert, an author best known for her 2006 memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, started the idea. A couple of years ago, when she launched her Facebook page, Elizabeth posted a photo of her happiness jar.

People loved the idea and it soon took off. Now, you can find all kinds of crafty variations of the happiness jar online. Everything from decorated old Mason jars to beautiful antique bowls can be used for this purpose.

As Elizabeth explains, however, the concept of a happiness jar is an “almost absurdly simple idea.” Use an old pickle jar or Kleenex box. It doesn’t matter. All you have to do at the end of each day is grab a scrap of paper and write down the happiest moment you enjoyed in the last 24 hours and drop it into the jar.

That’s it, pure and simple. But I love this idea.

Another confession: this is not the best time in my life. My Mom, who has good days and bad days with Lewy Body dementia, asked me the other day if I liked sailing and who my mother was – obviously not recognizing me. I could focus on that. Or I could allow the pain and worry I am currently experiencing watching my oldest son and three grandchildren go through a rough and painful divorce overwhelm me.

Or I could take a certain Jedi’s advice who said: “Always remember, your focus determines your reality.”

Don’t get me wrong. I am totally guilty of allowing negative things overpower me at times. But then, I remember all the things I’ve written about and all the information I’ve read and researched for my blog. I know deep in my heart that we, as humans, are capable of finding happiness even in our worse moments.

That’s why this notion appeals to me. In less than one minute, you can document that one moment of joy you had – even on a bad day – that you probably would have forgotten all about if you hadn’t taken the time to write it down.

And no, your note doesn’t have to include a life-changing moment like getting married, getting a book published, traveling to Fiji, or having your first grandchild. You’ll discover that most often the happiest moment of your day is the simplest one – like enjoying the warmth of the sun on your face, sipping your first cup of coffee in the quiet of the morning, a loving smile from your spouse, a glance of a hummingbird joyfully taking a bath in a fountain, or indulging in a bite of your favorite candy bar.

No matter what’s happening in our lives, we all have those small moments we can cherish. Instead of unconsciously reliving the moment when a driver ungraciously cut you off in traffic or that rude thing your workmate said, you can relish the simple moment that brought you peace and joy that day.

Not only will this practice help you learn to be grateful for the small, everyday, sweet moments in your life and to be present in the moment, but it can provide comfort and inspiration on those awful days.

All you have to do is sit down and pull out one of your notes. Wrap those small but shining jewels of happiness around your soul and let it provide you with the knowledge that you will have those special moments in the future as well.

As Elizabeth points out, there are no hard and fast rules. Maybe you’ll have a jar you share with your spouse where you deposit notes of ways you make each other happy to strengthen your marriage. Maybe your jar will be a “Blessings of Getting Older” or “Get Me Through Divorce” or “Finding Happiness with Cancer” jar. You might include mementos like theater ticket stubs in your jar. Use whatever works for you during the different stages of your life.

When the jar is full, maybe you’ll sit down at the end of the year and celebrate your happy moments. Or you could make a collage or scrapbook with your notes and include photos. Like I said, whatever works for you.

So, grab that jar or bowl and place it somewhere in sight to remind you to write a quick note listing the little things that make you happy. By recording the best parts of your life, you can change the way you remember each unique day.

Now, that’s empowering!


Julie A. Gorges is the author of two young adult novels, Just Call Me Goody Two Shoes and Time to Cast Away and co-author of Residential Steel Design and Construction published by McGraw Hill. In addition, hundreds of her articles and short stories have been published in national and regional magazines, and she received three journalism awards from the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association while working as a newspaper reporter. Julie currently lives in southern California with her husband, Scott, and has two grown children and three grandchildren.

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12 Responses

  1. Bless you for sharing some of the difficult things you are facing.

    Bless you for passing along the Happy Jar idea and all the other things you’ve shared to help us all find more of the bright things in our lives.

    The two sharings make for a powerful message.

    Thank you. Hugs.

    • juliegorges says:

      It is my hope to help people find a bit more joy and happiness in their lives with my blogs, so I’m very moved by your comment. I know that I’m not alone and everyone has their own challenges to deal with – some worse than my own. You are so very welcome, Pearl, and I send my hugs back your way.

  2. Thanks for introducing me to the ‘Happy Jar’…loved the idea. I have often felt that the happiest moments of life are momentary and just get drowned in memory stream. This is a wonderful way of capturing and celebrating those fleeting minutes of exhilaration.

  3. Suzie Cheel says:

    Julie, I am finally going to start filling the jar I have sitting here on my shelf. i am planning on it being my gratitude and celebration jar and i am going to make questions to stick on the jar to remind me. Love the ideas you have shared
    thank you

  4. Julie, this is seriously awesome! I’m going to start a jar today. I’m a big fan and practitioner of feeling and expressing gratitude, and I so love new ways to do that.


    Oh, and you certainly are a serious pinner, my dear. I’ve just followed a large portion of your boards. Love being connected with you.


  5. Diane Topkis says:

    Julie, I love Pinterest too. I’ll go find your boards to follow. I’m always amazed at how clever people are. Love the Happiness jar. Great visible reminder on where to place your focus especially when you are going through difficulties like you are. I think it would be fun and insightful as a new New Year Eve or Day tradition to read through the year’s worth.

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