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It’s easy to fixate on the “bad” moments of everyday life, whether you got a flat tire on the way to work or burned your leftovers for dinner. If that sounds familiar, then you might want to consider adding a gratitude practice into your daily routine. One way to do this is by creating a happiness jar.
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of City of Girls, popularized the happiness jar trend, and thousands on social media have hopped on board. Now you can, too. Haven’t heard of it before? All you do is write down a good moment that happened each day on a tiny scrap of paper and keep it in a jar for safekeeping.
“By writing the happiest moment of our day onto a piece of paper daily and putting it into a jar, we’re training our brains to scan our environment for the positive and to become a ‘blessing detector,’” says Jeffrey Froh, professor of psychology at Hofstra University and author of Thrive: 10 Commandments for 20-Somethings to Live the Best-Life-Possible.
Now that we’ve got you hooked on happiness, keep reading to find out how to make your own happiness jar and the benefits of gratitude on mental health, according to professionals.
How to Make a Happiness Jar
There’s no right or wrong way to make a happiness jar. In a blog post on her website, Gilbert encourages people to put whatever they’d like into the jar. There aren't any specific quotes or messages that you must include. All you need is some paper, a pen, and a jar. Gilbert notes that the jar could even be a tissue box because at the end of the day “the vessel is just the vessel” where the information is stored. What’s more important is that it’s kept somewhere safe where you can refer back to it when you want to reflect on moments of joy throughout the years. You can even make a happiness jar for a friend to relish over the good memories and happy times you've had together—it can be whatever you want it to be.
Gilbert recommends dating the pieces of paper so you can know when these moments took place, similar to a diary entry. You can make it more visually appealing by using colored paper and pens, but that’s not necessary to reap the benefits.
Nina Vasan, MD, chief medical officer at Real, says that a physical happiness jar isn’t even necessary for some people. “For some, writing a note on their phone or writing in a journal is preferred. However, it is less about the format that their gratitude practice takes and much more about the act of the practice.”
Now that you know how to make a happiness jar, here are some benefits of gratitude you may feel as a result of this self-care practice.
Benefits of a Happiness Jar on Mental Health
Gratitude can improve overall mental and physical health.
If you’re looking for an easy and quick way to improve your overall health, then you might want to consider creating a happiness jar.
“Grateful people tend to be less stressed, anxious, and depressed. Some research even suggests that grateful people are less likely to have suicidal thoughts,” says Froh. “They also tend to be more alert and happy, and they have improved heart rate variability (i.e., an indicator of good heart health).”
That’s not to say that writing down what you’re grateful for will make you a superhuman, but it can help improve your mental and physical health.
2. Gratitude can improve relationships.
As humans, we are wired for connections with other people, and practicing gratitude can help with that. “Gratitude is an important component of forming new relationships, which means a gratitude practice can open you up to new friendships and relationships,” says Vayan. “It is also critical to strengthening important existing relationships and can contribute to higher levels of satisfaction within the relationship and improved happiness.”
3. Gratitude can help shift a negative mindset.
For people who struggle with depression, it can be difficult to find little pockets of joy in everyday life. Looking for moments to be grateful for doesn’t negate the suffering or negative emotions one experiences, but can be a helpful tool toward rewiring the brain to look for more positives.
“We don't have an accurate depiction of our starting line, or how far we've come, if we aren't able to celebrate accomplishments or acknowledge gratitude,” says Kristen Casey, PsyD, clinical psychologist and insomnia specialist. “Gratitude can also help shift our mind when we are feeling uneasy. It can also help provide us with more balance in life.”
4. Gratitude may improve self-esteem.
For many individuals, self-esteem is always a work in progress. With that said, keeping a happiness jar may help to improve self-esteem and overall confidence. “Having an ongoing gratitude practice can also help you build a stronger relationship with yourself,” says Vayan. “It reduces social comparison, the act of comparing yourself or your life to others, and helps you focus on the elements of your life you’re grateful for and proud of.”
5. Gratitude can help you savor life.
It’s easy to take what we have for granted, but practicing gratitude can help shift your perspective and relish in all that you do have.
“It helps us get the good from the good. Not only can this amplify your morning coffee experience, but it can also help you appreciate your ‘ratty’ clothes and ‘small’ home,” says Froh. “You’ll soon realize that relative to 90 percent (if not 95 percent!) of the world, you dress like royalty and live in a castle. This realization will make you—and your bank account—happy.”
Now that you know what a happiness jar is and how to make one, head out to your local supply store and get yourself a jar, paper, and pens and get to work. If you don't have the materials, you can start by making a happiness jar online in a blank document and then slowly transitioning to pen and paper.
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