Since making my Happiness Box Project Initiative public in May 2018, I’ve received a few e-mails asking me questions about how I came up with the project, and some ask me if I could teach them. Some have been teachers in foreign, war-torn countries inquiring, about ways to help their trouble students overcome PTSD. My project began in response to PTSD, and I was happy that after a few years working on this project privately it was reaching others who had a need; the stories tore at my heartstrings, of course, I would work with them via e-mail or Skype.
To say that this summer has been busy is an understatement. I work two jobs, and with various health issues, I have been focusing more on spending time with loved ones. I’ve been filling my Happiness Box with these moments, and I will admit that I forgot about typing an outline. You most likely understand how life can throw curveballs and once those curveballs slow down, life resumes. Since summer is ending, I’ve been sitting down and thinking about an outline to send to educators that have reached out.
As I sit and think about an outline, I can’t seem to form one. You might be thinking, “how is that possible?” Let me tell you, the Happiness Box Project is very personal. All I can truly say is, “find your favourite jar or box or find one that speaks to you, decorate it with either photo, pictures, stickers, anything that puts a smile on your face. Once you decorate it, you are ready to collect whatever brings you happiness throughout the year. You could add notes that you wrote of a particular event or item that made you grateful; photographs you took that make you happy, letters from friends or family that you received, anything that will bring you happiness when you open your “gift” in the New Year.” Honestly, you can put anything you want into your jar or box; there aren’t any rules because it’s a self-directed project.
It dawned on me, as it is probably dawning on you, that our feelings have no rules. We are free to express our feelings in any healthy (and safe) way that we want to. It has also dawned on me that I can’t really outline this project, but I sure can teach this principle to others: we should not be afraid to express how we feel. We should not be scared of how we feel either. Feelings and emotions are just that, they are neither negative nor positive; they are just as they are. We can be grateful for adverse events or emotions because how we respond to it will be positive; we grow as we learn. Write that down and I can guarantee when you look back on it in a new year or later on in life, you will feel a sense of pride. Recording perceived negatives and being grateful is just as important as happy moments because we should feel content with our lives.
Contentedness is more long-lasting than happiness. Contentedness and joy contribute to happiness, and one needs to be content to have a successful life. Your happiness, joy, and contentedness are much more connected to satisfaction than external things like money and stuff. How you feel on the inside is much more important than the outside. When I first started the Happiness Box Project initiative, I was just looking for something to make me happy. I am slowly learning that our life is not only filled with positive events, we also experience adverse events throughout life. Our contentedness with what we already have (love of family, friends, belief in a higher power) will ultimately be what gets us through whatever we have, as well as the resolve and courage to move past whatever it is we are facing. Contentedness doesn’t mean we don’t strive for more, but it’s a way to keep us from worry and anxiety as we move forward.
I have to reach back out to the teachers, and instead of writing an outline or instructions, I will just simply say: “it is a personal project, and the only rule is that the student does what he or she is comfortable with, at their level of the healing process. If filling the box can be filled each day with gratitude and happiness, wonderful! If not every day, but whenever a grateful or happy moment arises, that’s wonderful too. Starting slowly and working toward writing something each day is ideal, and starting slowly will build comfort to where they can recognize joy and gratitude more regularly. They need to be patient with the healing process and they need to be patient as they build this skill.”
We all need to be patient, and we all need time to reflect on the happenings of the day. We can all learn something from this initiative, especially when it comes to slowing down and appreciating the people in our lives.