Vidya’s Happiness Project

Do you ever wonder if what you’re doing in life is making someone else’s life better? When I find out that someone is inspired by my books or my blog, John (the Zen Papa) calls this my “Paycheck”.

Last October, I received a paycheck. I went to read Vidya Sury’s blog called Going A Musing and I was astounded at what I read! It was October 13, 2010. I called John and Oliver (my youngest) over to read because I couldn’t believe what I saw! The title of the post was “My Happiness Project”.

What I’d seen was this: a picture of a jar with a little note attached to it for all to see! The small jar had a smiley sticker stuck on it. Under the smiley, there’s a little strip that says “Thank you, Betsy at The Zen Mama, for the inspiration”.

Vidya wrote: “Each time something makes us happy, we’ll write it down in a slip of paper and put it in this jar. This means we will consciously appreciate every little thing. We’ll watch the jar fill up. At some point, it may not even be necessary to open the jar and read each slip, though we’ll do that too. Just seeing it fill up will be motivating, inspiring.” I was quite humbled at the thought that my blog and posts were the inspiration for a jar that an Indian family was using to write down what made them happy that day.

I wrote to Vidya and we struck up a great blogging friendship. She also has a 14 year old son. He is very much a part of the Zen Mama Happiness Jar. I really wanted to share the whole thing with everyone who reads Zen Mama so I asked Vidya if she would let me interview her. Here it is!

Betsy:
What made you come up with the idea of a Zen Mama Happiness Jar?

Vidya:

My mother has always encouraged me to take stock of the good things that happened during the day before bed-time every night. “Sleep with a smile on your face” she would say. We also have a penchant for lists and wish lists. I’ve learned valuable lessons from my Mom about setting goals and savoring the accomplishment.

It all began with the awareness that World Smile Day is celebrated on the first Friday of every October. I wrote a post about this. In fact, laughter is one of my favorite topics to write about (besides temples) and quite a staple.

Immediately thereafter I read your post titled “Take Two Smiles and Call Me In the Morning” which, I think, is a must read for everyone. Besides the superb title and some beautiful quotes about smiling and laughter, you explained the benefits of smiling. I made a print version of this post.

Vidur, my son also enjoyed reading it. While clearing up his shelf a little later, I found large smileys we had received some time back. I also happened to have my arm around a large empty jar at the time and when I placed the smiley on it, the idea of “Collecting Smiles” came to me. This was October 15, 2011.

We decided that each time something makes us happy, we’ll write it down on a slip of paper and put it in this jar. This meant we would consciously appreciate every little thing. We watched the jar fill up. We did not deem it necessary to open the jar and read each slip, though we did decide to do that in the end of Dec 2011 just for fun. Just seeing it fill up was motivating, inspiring.

Of course, when we have a problem or are upset about something, we discuss it, disperse the sadness, find solutions and take action to feel better.

I am thrilled to say Vidur grabbed the idea and before I knew it, the jar (which is over a foot tall) was a quarter full, then half full, then – full! The funny thing is, he’d open it quietly and slip in his chit of paper. Initially he would keep asking me if I read what he wrote. I think he liked it that we didn’t attempt to see what we wrote. I also encouraged him to note his achievements and put them in the jar. This motivated him to take an initiative to do things.

So it was great fun for all three of us!

Betsy:
What did you write and put in it?

Viday:
When we felt happy about something, we just picked up a slip of paper, made a note and dropped it in the jar. Here are some examples (and yes, I made sure the paper was readily available near the jar). The jar is located in a prominent place where we can see it most of the time.

Betsy:
Tell me how it affected your relationship with your son, Vidur? Your husband?

Vidya:
I am happy to say the three of us have always enjoyed a wonderful closeness. My husband Sury usually keeps us in splits with his take on things (don’t ever believe anyone who says mathematicians are socially dull). We enjoy a lot of shared activity and quality time. The Happiness Jar added a fun dimension to our lives because rather than just enjoy our happiness, we recorded it. As I said, just seeing the jar becoming fuller was enough to put a smile on our face.

Betsy:
When did you open it? How did you all feel about what you had written?

Vidya:
We returned from our trip on December 31 and decided to open it on Jan 1 – what better way to begin the New Year than with things that made us happy in the previous one! We felt terrific. Had lots of laughter over some of the stuff written there. Imagine Vidur: “Visited Lakshmi athai and spent time with her”. Athai is aunt. She’s elderly and in bad health. I found it sweet that Vidur thought to write that down, with the date – because it helped me figure something else out.

Overall, I think it has helped us all appreciate everything more. More important, this exercise has helped Vidur plan better, become more focused, more understanding and helpful towards others and more generous about giving. He also understands the value of affirmations. He has always been a great kid – but I am seeing him growing up with this “happiness project”. A positive attitude is so important when one turns 14! There is nothing like the pressure within to make us work hard. And it is wonderful to look at all the little things that can make us happy!

Betsy:

Now that you opened the jar, are you still going to have another one?

Vidya:

Definitely, yes. I am even thinking of variations of it. Imagine adopting this in schools! Maybe even work out a fun reward system for Vidur – for any major accomplishment. He takes these things very seriously. A huge jar with a smile on its face is visual motivation. I like how we smile at the jar each time we pass it. I only wish my Mom had been around to see this! She would have loved it.

I do believe that happiness is a DIY project!

“A smile is the light in the window of your face that tells people you’re at home.” ~Author Unknown

I’m making a Zen Mama Happiness Jar tonight before my college kids go back. I want them to add their happiness thoughts.

Will you make a Zen Mama Jar? It’s perfect way to stick to your New Year’s resolution of “Be Positive”! I’m going to make one and make sure to have paper and pencil nearby. Let me know in the comments if you’re going to make one. Or maybe you have another idea. Let me know! And please go and visit Vidya! You’ll feel like you’ve made a new friend!

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31 Responses to Vidya’s Happiness Project

  1. Terri Sonoda says:

    I love this! Vidya is one of my very favorite bloggers, but I did not know this. Thank you for featuring it. She’s an amazing person!

    [Reply]

    Betsy Reply:

    Terri, Vidya has always been one of my favorites, too. Glad you enjoyed!

    [Reply]

  2. Vidya Sury says:

    Dear Betsy, Thanks so much. I’ve got to admit that am all teary-eyed with emotion. This Happiness Jar has impacted us in many ways and I just love it. Thank you for your generosity and for giving me the privilege of sharing it on your blog as well.

    Much love, and hugs,

    Vidya

    [Reply]

    Betsy Reply:

    Vidya,
    It’s my pleasure! I can’t wait to have our own jar and write down all happy thoughts as well.
    Your guest post has been very popular!

    [Reply]

  3. sheila says:

    I just read about this on Vidya’s blog this morning, and I remember seeing the first post about the jar on her blog a couple months ago and thought it was really cool. Yes! I shall be making a Happiness Jar TODAY! And my college kids go back (one left already) so I’m going to make each one a jar to have in their dorm room. Of course I will have to mail them because they totally over pack and have absolutely no room left in their suitcase. hahahaha…. girls!

    Great post, most enjoyable Betsy!
    🙂 🙂 🙂 Three smiles to you!

    [Reply]

    Betsy Reply:

    Sheila, I’ll be looking forward to seeing a picture of your jar! Hope your kids enjoy them as well!

    [Reply]

  4. I love this! And one of the reasons I love blogging so, so much!

    [Reply]

    Betsy Reply:

    Missy,
    Glad you loved it!

    [Reply]

  5. Kimberly says:

    I love this idea.
    Especially since I have been struggling so much these last few years with postpartum depression that moments of pure happiness seem all too fleeting.
    I seem to focus too much on all the bad rather than the good.
    This is a great way to keep the happy in every day.

    [Reply]

    Betsy Reply:

    Hi Kimberly,
    The jar is a great way to change our focus from the negative to the positive. Let me know if you make one and if it helps.
    Thanks for stopping by today!

    [Reply]

  6. Neerja says:

    What a lovely idea, Vidya! I am thoroughly enjoying reading your blogs and loved the idea of the Happiness Project. We have so much to be thankful for and what a wonderful way keeping account.
    Neerja

    [Reply]

    Betsy Reply:

    Neerja,
    I’m so glad you commented and stopped by today. Vidya has such a great idea here. It is a wonderful way to keep track of what we’re thankful for, too!

    [Reply]

  7. Pingback: Vidya's Happiness Project | The Zen Mama's Blog « happy fit

  8. I remember Vidya’s original post. It is a great idea. You are both very good at focusing on the positive and your positivity is contagious.

    [Reply]

    Betsy Reply:

    Thanks Unknown Mami! Glad it’s contagious!!!

    [Reply]

  9. Joy says:

    I love this whole idea..and that you chose to share it with us…I am smiling as I read it:)
    I *love* this: “I do believe that happiness is a DIY project!”…and absolutely agree! as well as this : “it all began with the awareness….” for that is truly how all wonderful changes are made–the awareness *is* the change 🙂 Sometimes when thinking of making a change we fret and plan and prepare and then feel overwhelmed or discouraged so we release the change, when all that we “needed” was the awareness….

    [Reply]

    Betsy Reply:

    Joy,
    I, too, love the statement, “I do believe that happiness is a DIY project.” Awareness is the key!
    Thanks for pointing that out!

    [Reply]

  10. Hi Betsy,

    Wonderful to read your inspiring interview with Vidya. I believe when we focus on something, like happiness, it finds a center point in our lives. How fun to realize your ideas were shared to that extent. That is a paycheck!

    [Reply]

    Betsy Reply:

    You’re right Cathy! That focus is so important. What we think, we become. And the paycheck… you can imagine how I felt that day! Very rewarding!

    [Reply]

  11. JennyBean says:

    What a great idea! It would be cool for classrooms to do this too.

    [Reply]

    Betsy Reply:

    I totally agree about the classroom. I hope one will do it and share with us.

    [Reply]

  12. Betsy,
    This is awesome. I’m going to make a jar and I’m telling my daughter to make my grandson a jar! Thanks for the inspiration. How cool is this?

    [Reply]

    Betsy Reply:

    Thanks Tess! If she does, have her send a picture! Would love to see your jar, too!

    [Reply]

  13. Emily says:

    This was a great interview! I love the idea of a Happiness Project. Vidya, you’re always such an inspiration!

    [Reply]

    Betsy Reply:

    Thanks for coming by, Emily. Glad you enjoyed and hope it’s inspired you. I love reading Vidya’s blog, too!

    [Reply]

  14. Jen says:

    Oh Betsy ( and Vidya)
    What a heartwarming post!
    Thank you!
    We have done a “thankful jar” around the Thanksgiving holiday, but I absolutely love the idea of having it be an all-year event. As the kids get older, things are getting more difficult. It is important to step back and remember the things, events, and people who fill up our happiness jar!!

    Happy New year to you both…and thank you for such inspiration!
    In Harmony,
    Jen ♫

    [Reply]

    Betsy Reply:

    Thanks Jen! I love your thankful jar, too, which would be wonderful to read at Thanksgiving dinner. It’s a very important thing to do with teens isn’t it? They often don’t think they have that great of a life. It could change, not only their point of view, but lead them in a different direction.

    Happy New Year to you, too!

    [Reply]

  15. Love this! What a GREAT idea. And I’ve got to go check out Vidya’s site. I’m sure it will become one that I regularly visit.

    [Reply]

    Betsy Reply:

    I just love Vidya’s site. She’s very positive and I love learning about India with her Sunday pictures.

    [Reply]

  16. Pingback: Attract Happiness With Zen Tips - Vidya Sury

  17. Pingback: Taking Stock | Vidya Sury, Collecting Smiles

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