A few months ago, I noticed a friend of mine in Louisville, Kentucky taking a different approach to Facebook. Instead of complaining about politics or venting about something else that bothered her, like so many of her friends were doing, she thought she’d focus on the positive, challenging herself to post something upbeat for 100 straight days (#100HappyDays). The first couple of times I saw it I thought, “what a great idea!”
Writer Kurt Vonnegut once said, “It’s a terrible waste to be happy and not notice it,” so I took my friend up on the challenge, beginning May 1. The first post was about coming home from work to my beautiful wife, Kari. At the time, we hadn’t been married a year (our anniversary fell on Happy Day 49. We celebrated by staying in a yurt in Flathead Valley, which very well could be the highlight of the 100 days). Kari was the reason for many of the happy days.
Once I got in the groove of posting happy thoughts every night, it became pretty easy – even natural. My general attitude and approach toward life started improving. I didn’t let myself get bogged down by the negative, and, if something unpleasant happened, I didn’t let it dictate my mood.
As I continued the challenge, it turned out I wasn’t alone. Kari joined me, too, striving more toward happiness and not letting things get to her. Facebook friends from all over supported me, some commenting or liking nearly every post, encouraging me with comments like, “Really enjoying these posts. Reminds me to breathe and appreciate the minutes of each day” or “I hope you will continue to enlighten us with your optimistic comments. You may have started this to remind yourself how wonderful life is, but you’ve reminded the rest of us as well. Your posts are a refreshing change from all the weird stuff that seems to find its way to Facebook.”
I was never obsessing over how many likes or comments I got, but I always appreciated the feedback, and I was enthused to see people getting into it. I had people stop me at the grocery store and thank me. People stopped me at the gym and elsewhere around town, too, saying they appreciated seeing something positive on social media and enjoyed the perspective.
There was the occasional complaint.
“Your happy days are making me sick,” a friend in Brooklyn joked, adding that he was glad to hear things were going well out west.
One of my favorite parts of this challenge was how it coincided with the progress of Big Spring Skatepark. On Happy Day 13 my band played the “I love the 90s” concert to raise funds for the park, which had its grand opening on Happy Day 101 (I had to do an extra day for this reason). Jeff Ament, Pearl Jam’s bass player and founder of Montana Pool Service, matched funds raised for the skate park. He came to town for the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Kari and I got to meet him, which was an exciting way to end this journey to joy, especially considering how much we love Pearl Jam.
If not for Ament, my last post would have been the video of Monty Python’s “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” which I used for Happy Day 100. Although sarcastic and tongue-in-cheek, that song – like Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry Be Happy” or Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds (don’t worry about a thing)” are mood enhancers and, ultimately, that’s what I was hoping to do with this challenge. During these 100 days, music was often what lifted me up. I had a lot of shows, be it at Jack’s Hangar, on the Charlie Russell Chew Choo, at church or on the street. Performing – or writing songs – made for some of the best moments. Phone calls and visits with good friends were also uplifting, as was getting out in nature with Kari, especially hikes, long walks or visits to hot springs (or even Warm Springs). Reading, too, and writing pieces from the heart, got me smiling.
Days spent with family were some of the best, whether playing a show with my dad or taking my mom out for dinner. My dad and I saw the “Godfather” on the big screen. My mom got a ride with a friend to Lewistown and got to see me play in the gazebo during the Central Montana Fair. Kari and her mother came with me to see my mom at one point, and we all made dinner and shared so many laughs. These were all remarkable days, as were days spent hanging out with my stepson, brother-in-law or taking the “weimarmonster,” Buster, for a walk.
While taking this challenge, I also appreciated my job more. I appreciated life more. I appreciated every day more. Happiness became a habit, as did living a good life. I started living with a focus on resilience and optimism. I made it a goal each day to become aware of the present moment and appreciate what I have, which helped lay a foundation for genuine progress toward sustained joy.
Why not live like this all the time? Sure, there will be challenges, there will be curveballs, but there is so much out there we take for granted. Look around. Take a breath. Joy runs deep. If you’re happy, don’t waste it, embrace it; not just on social media, but that’s a great place to start. I challenge you.
(as published in the Lewistown News-Argus)