A Journey Through a Day of Smiles - My Happiness Project
My Happiness Project - A One Day Experiement
Happiness can mean different things to many people and almost everyone wants to achieve some kind of happiness in their lives. For some it might be about finding your soul mate and for others, it could be about achieving financial security. It sometimes seem rather complicated especially when happiness seems to be readily available to everyone. I mean how difficult can it be? That was the question that followed me around for most of my life.
One day, I decided to do an experiment and it was a very simple one. I wanted to see if I could stay happy for an entire day by focusing on things that make me smile. All I had to do was find things that made me smile throughout the day. That's all! If happiness was so important to me, sparing just one day out of my entire life felt like something worth doing.
*Photo : Empty benches at the park on a weekday.
All photos by myself unless otherwise noted.
Would You Consider Yourself a Happy Person?
Unhappy, Depressed and Suicical
I've had my share of unhappiness in my life and it's not something I usually talk about. I guess it's not surprising considering my early days on earth. Throughout my youth, I was overweight and didn't particularly feel good about myself. My family was not a typical one and it included a lot of pain and confusion that I soon became depressed and attempted suicide a couple of times. Fortunately, I failed miserably at trying to end my life and so my life continued on.
I'm not going to bore you with details of my life, but do want to point out that I haven't always been a happy person. Happiness always seemed just out of my reach when something traumatic would happen in my life. I'm sure I'm not the only one with problems and life just happens I know. So I a few years ago, I made it a major goal to concentrate on trying to be happy with life. It wasn't about material things and it wasn't about money. It was about just being happy with what I have.
*Photo : A piece of sky
The Happiness Project
This book became the inspiration for my own happiness project. It made me think, laugh and smile! Whatever your level of happiness, reading this book can definitely make you just that much happier.
Waking Up to a Beautiful morning
I awake from a slightly disturbing dream of finding myself trying to teach an exercise class to a group of angry people while an insurance salesman tries to shoo me away with his sales brochure ( you know how weird dreams can be ). As soon as I remember the dream, I find myself laughing out loud at the absurdity of it and then realize that it was the first smile of the day! My happiness project has started!
As usual, the first thing I do when I get up in the morning is to make a gratitude list. I jot down ten things I'm grateful for every morning and write it down into my electronic notebook that's sitting beside the bed. Once I'm done with that, I feel good and ready to take on the day. A smile one more time before hopping out of bed. I am anxious to see how my plumeria plant is doing.
*Photo : Plumeria plant on my balcony against a beautiful blue sky
The Magic and My Gratitude List
Truth be told, I never understood the Secret until I got this book. It is more of a workbook where you can put things into practice to make your life happier.
Breakfast on the Balcony
I hop out of bed to make myself a quick breakfast of green tea and some frozen pancakes I made a week before. I decide to have my meal outside on the balcony since it's such a beautiful day. Feeling the breeze and the sun's warmth on my skin makes me smile. My plumeria plant is thriving and growing strong. My dog decids to join me on the balcony and the picture is complete. Can life get any better than this?
*Photo : Green tea and pancakes for breakfast on the balcony
My Daily Walk with Justin
After breakfast, Justin is ready for his morning walk so we both head on out into a perfect day. The sun is out and there's a nice breeze in the air. I remind myself that I still need to keep track of how many times I smile today when I realize I'm already smiling.
*Photo : Justin
Do Pets Make a Difference?
Do you think having a pet adds to a person's happiness level?
Signs of Autumn
My walk with Justin takes us on our usual route when I realize that autumn is right around the corner. Look there Justin...persimmons waiting to mature and ripen! Once again, I smile. Is it just my imagination or is Justin smiling too?
Photo : Early persimmon plant with green persimmons
Getting on the Train is a Big Deal
Since it's such a beautiful day, I decide I should head to Shinjuku Gyoen, a beautiful park just a train ride from my apartment. I smile at myself as the train approaches thinking how this was virtually impossible for me a few years back. My anxiety disorder prevented me from riding trains and I have conquered those irrational fears. I board the train and look across the train to see my reflection in the glass window smiling right back at me.
Photo : The train arrives to take me into town
Tokyo on Foot
Walking is the best way to get to know Tokyo. This book is completely illustrated with hand-drawn pictures, making it unique and entertaining. An easy way to get a feel of what living in Tokyo is actually like.
Life is a Gift
Once I get off the train, it's still a good 20 minute walk to the park. As I walk amongst the crowd, I remind myself to take notice of my surroundings. It is then that I notice my own shadow realizing how blessed I am to be alive. I can't help it and I'm smiling again.
*Photo : Shadow of myself
An Oasis in the City
I love visiting the Shinjuku Gyoen park. It's a sprawling oasis in the middle of the chaotic city and it never fails to put me in a relaxed state of mind. Upon entering the park grounds, you are surrounded by an abundance of nature while the buildings in the distance reminds you that you haven't really left the city. I take a deep breath and smile at how good it feels to be surrounded by nature.
*Photo : Shinjuku skyscraper from inside the park
Nature and Sky Equals Total Bliss
I walk towards the concession stand to get myself a nice cup of iced coffee. After paying for my drink, I immediately head towards the Japanese gardens. As I start to walk a bird flys over my head making me look up at the sky. The sky is blue with there's not a cloud in sight. With my coffee in hand, I feel completely relaxed. I say "thank you" towards the sky to no one in particular as I continue to walk with a smile on my face.
*Photo : A piece of tree against a sky blue background
Beauty All Around
As I approach the Japanese gardens, I notice how beautiful everything is and a bridge leading into the section catches my attention. Why haven't I noticed it before I wonder to myself. I then realize that my "happiness project" is making me take notice of things I always took for granted. This realization makes me smile and I find myself standing on the bridge for longer than necessary so I can relish in the moment.
*Photo : Bridge into the Japanese gardens
A Calming Space
Wide open spaces in the city is extremely rare, which makes this park all the more special. To my right is a family of four laying on the grass and doing absolutely nothing, yet they look content and happy just being there. On the left is a mother and daughter having a picnic. Everyone seems to be smiling including me.
*Photo : Open field in the park
The Grass Under My Feet
I suddenly want to take off my sandals. I take them off and feel the grass under my feet. The grass is surprisingly cold and refreshing. Memories of simpler times come rushing into my head and I feel like a child again. Why do I try to supress these feelings of giddiness? I smile at myself as I allow myself to be a child again.
*Photo : I take off my sandals to walk on the grass
What Can You See?
Remember those innocent games we used to play as a child? One of my favorite things to do was to lie down on the grass with friends and telling each other what the clouds looked like. The clouds shifted and morphed into things that were only limited by our imaginations. At that precise moment, I noticed the shadows on the ground callling for my attention. I absorbed myself into a private game of "What can you see?" and smiled as I kept walking with my head down for a good 5 minutes.
*Photo : Shadows on the ground
Beauty Beneath Your Feet
I leave the park and decide to head on back home. I was getting hungry and I was pretty sure Justin was waiting for his dinner as well. On the way to the station, I found some random beauty in the city right under my feet.
*Photo : sidewalk design
Sometimes Detours Can Be a Good Thing
Although it wasn't the most direct route, I decided to follow the path with the beautiful pavement and as I did, I was pleasantly surprised that I found a quaint little street that I never knew about before. Pockets of unexpected beauty makes me smile.
*Photo : A picturesque street in the middle of the city
Would you like to visit Tokyo one of these days?
The Walk Back Home
After getting off the train at my home station, I walk towards my apartment following my usual route as I try to find something to make me smile. As I look towards the sky, I notice a stream of sunlight pointing towards a house with some beautiful red flowers. It's hard not to forget the house that was destroyed by the earthquake two blocks down. This house was spared along with my own and once again, I decide to focus on how blessed we are that we are still here. I smile and am filled with gratitude.
*Photo : A house on a typical Japanese street
A Piece of Happiness in My Backyard
I arrive back home with Justin waiting for me at the entrance like he always does. I wonder if he just stays there waiting for me all day. He never fails to make me smile and I am grateful that he's a part of my life. I greet him with my usual hugs and kisses and open up the windows to circulate the air in my apartment. As I step outside on my balcony to check on the plumeria plant, I look out at the small pocket-sized park right behind my apartment building thinking how lucky I am to have a view of a park, no matter how small it is.
*Photo : The park from my balcony
I check on my plants on the other balcony and a beauty sunset greets me. I thank the sun for giving me so much warmth and happiness today.
*Photo : Sunset from my living room
The Day Comes to an End
At the end of the day I realize my project is coming to an end as well. During dinner, I notice how delicious everything tastes including the variety of textures in my mouth adding to the sensory pleasure of eating. I also enjoyed the cleaning up after my meal even though I usually dread this part of my day. It felt good to clean up and wiping the kitchen counter of leftover food bits. As I cleaned the kitchen and threw out my garbage, my soul felt like it was being cleansed along with everything else.
I got ready for bed and as I lay Justin into bed with me, he looked completely content and happy with life. I smiled one last time for the day and never felt happier in my entire life.
*Photo : Tucking Justin into bed
Do you think you are a happy person? What makes you smile? Please feel free to share your thoughts with us. Thanks for reading!