5 Things I Learned From Taking A 21-Day Challenge To Be Happier

by Jillian Hill

About 21 days ago, I came across an Instagram from @thinkgrowprosper that stated if you can recall three things you are thankful for every day for 21 days you can “rewire” your brain to be happy. Please hold back your cringes on how extremely cheesy this sounds, because I know.

However, I figured I didn't have anything to lose. The effort I had to put in was minimal and the reward was possibly huge. Train myself to be happy in 21 days? Sounds easy. So I decided to take this challenge and see if there was any truth to it.

Surprisingly enough, I felt the changes almost immediately. Even on crappy days when the traffic to work was bad and the people I had to deal with at work were even worse, recalling three things I had to be thankful for put me in a better mood. My days didn't seem to drag as much, and I found enjoyment in all the small things I hadn't even thought of before. Even now that the challenge is over, I can honestly say I just feel happier.

Here are the five things I took away from the 21-day challenge.

We all have bad days.

Being a happy person does not mean that you don't ever get angry, mad or sad. You are going to have tough days and you have to learn to be OK with that. Give yourself a little bit of grace because life isn't easy and you aren't perfect.

Let yourself react to the things that happen in your life, but also learn the skill of resiliency. Being happy is about getting back up after you have been knocked down, and moving forward with your life. Acknowledge the loss, the heartbreak, the disappointment, whatever it may be, but also acknowledge all the things you still have to be grateful for.

Happiness is not an end destination.

Being a happy person has to be a conscious choice that you make every day. The happiest people in life don't just wake up one day and suddenly feel endless positivity and light, although wouldn't that be nice? At the risk of sounding cheesier than I already do, being happy is a journey. Some days will be easy, like strolling through the park when the weather is just right.

Other days will be hard, like trudging through negative 10-degree weather with snow and ice blowing in your face. The happiest of people don't give up when the going gets tough. So when you wake up for work on Monday, be excited for the possibilities that this week will bring. And if that seems impossible, take smaller steps, just be excited for your venti dirty chai you always get, or listening to that new song you love. Make a conscious effort to be happy, and I promise you will see a change sooner, rather than later.

You can draw your happiness from everywhere, and you should.

Everyone says money doesn't buy happiness, and I am in agreement with them up to a certain point. I listed a total of 63 things I was thankful for during this three week challenge, and that list ranged from my Spotify Premium membership to my amazing and supportive family.

At first I tried to stay away from material things because I felt like that made me shallow. However, one of the biggest takeaways from the 21-day challenge for me, was that happiness comes from everywhere.

Don't feel bad if you feel thankful for material things because that's why we have them, right? We get these things because they make us happy. I'm not saying that this is all you should rely on because there are things that material items can never give you. Try and draw positive vibes from the people in your life as well as from yourself.

I implemented a rule about half way through the project where every day at least one of the three things I was thankful for had to be 100 percent internal. Find things within yourself that you are thankful for because on the day when nothing and no one is there to help you, you need to be able to lift yourself up.

Happiness is an individual thing.

OK, so this seems obvious right? What makes me happy won't necessarily make you happy. But what I am getting at here is that I started this challenge with some of my best friends and ended it by myself.

While sharing what I was grateful for with them was fun, I got the most out of the challenge when I did it on my own. Writing down what I was grateful for every day helped provide clarity in my life and helped me to get in touch with what I was feeling.

If you don't understand what's going on in your own head, it's harder to make definite choices about things. Since happiness is so unique to each person, it's pointless to try and compare your happiness to anyone else's. That why this 21-day challenge is most effective when you do it by yourself, for yourself.

You are in control.

A lot of people like to blame their unhappiness on the factors in their life, and to some extent that's fair. Like I said earlier, it's OK to have bad days and to react to any hardships you will inevitably face in your lifetime. But never think that you are a helpless product of your environment because you always have the choice.

You have the choice to look at the positive of a bad situation; the choice to move forward from something painful; the choice to be happy. Once you understand and fully accept that you are in charge of how you feel, the journey to happiness gets easier.

So, if you have made it this far, then you can see past the cheese and see the real value in a challenge like this. I highly recommend that if you feel unhappy with your life, or even if you think you are already happy, take this challenge.

It's only for three weeks, and it takes maybe five minutes out of your day. If you take it seriously and put some real thought into what you are grateful for, I promise the outcome far outweighs the minimal effort you put in. Put you doubts aside and do this for yourself.

You don't have to tell anyone about it so what do you have to lose?