The Joy Jar has become an annual tradition.

That’s a little surprising, considering how much time I spent hating on the idea. It seemed so cheesy and a little pretentious, perhaps? I can’t quite put my finger on why I had such a strong distaste for a good idea.

But now I love it. I look forward to it. I’ve come to count on it as part of my New Year’s tradition, like my annual year in review post.

My daughter, Samantha, when she was one day old.

What’s a joy jar?

A joy jar is a container filled joyful moments collected throughout the year.

The theory is that by collecting the little moments, you’ll appreciate them more. By appreciating the little everyday moments more, you’ll feel happier and more satisfied with your life as a whole. That’s something I can get behind. (Which is why I gave it a try, even though I started as a doubter.)

At the end of one year – or the start of a new year – you go through the joy jar and look back at everything joyful that happened. It can be as unceremonious as you please, or you can institute a ceremony that bring you even more joy. For example, some people burn the paper at the end.

I kind of like to have a little bubbly and a quiet moment with my family to cherish the little moments we shared.

Our 2017 joy jar

Focusing on joy

About half way through 2017, I saw the jar on the counter and scoffed at it.

“Why do I do this to myself? That thing is in the way. Maybe I should stop with this ridiculous joy jar,” I though to myself on several occasions.

The year felt so tough.

It felt silly to keep adding pieces of paper to this little jar.

I stopped adding to the joy jar because the news was too depressing, politics and social justice weighed heavily on me, my own projects weren’t moving fast enough, I had morning sickness, my life changed dramatically with the birth of our daughter, and my dog passed away.

It feels like I aged 200 years in those 365 days.

But then one day, at the start of 2018, my husband and I had lunch at home. I sat at the counter and held my daughter as he made sandwiches for the two of us. I grabbed the jar and we went through it, smiling at all of the lovely little moments that made 2017 memorable.

The little moments included:

  • Finding out a baby was on the way
  • Learning the gender of the baby
  • Sharing the news with our family
  • Hearing the heartbeat for the first time
  • Looking at the sonograms
  • Doing yard work together and appreciating our home
  • Celebrating the milestones and successes in our professional lives
  • Welcoming our daughter to the world and getting to know this sweet child

There were so many beautiful moments in 2017.

Of course, that’s not to say everything was peachy keen all year.

I didn’t share much about being pregnant. Some people misinterpreted the absence of pregnancy posts, thinking I had an easy time with it. False. I was sick a lot and had a really tough time with pregnancy and delivery. But that’s something I’d rather not complain about in a public way because I’m not sure it does anyone any good, ya know?

Saying farewell to Louie, for example, was also really painful and difficult.

I love that dog so much. It completely broke my heart to hold him as he passed away. But I’m thankful we got to spend so much time together in those 10 years, for all the lessons he taught me (patience, loyalty, handling bullies, etc.), and that Louie waited just long enough to meet Samantha before deciding it was his time to rest.

Louie was such a good boy.

My sweet little Louie passed away in September 2017.

What I found is that when we choose to focus on the joy gratitude, and that helps it multiply. There were tough moments, of course, but they don’t get swept under the rug. The tough times are respected, appreciated, and acknowledged.

Taking the time to honor the year, how it’s shaped me, and what I hope to tackle in the coming year is really good for my soul.

Give it a try

As much as I hated on the joy jar concept, I’m so happy I’ve been doing it for a few years. It’s become one of my favorite New Year’s traditions.

I find that going through the littlest moments and pausing to give thanks for them makes me feel content – even in the midst of the big challenges in my own life and the chaos of the world.

Give it a try. I would love to hear about your joy jar experience. Use the comments to tell me what it’s like for you!