What Makes You Happy? | Introducing Neily’s Happiness Jar

Wanna Know What Makes Me Happy?

What inspired Neily’s Happiness Jar was a blog post. I thought it was the end of 2015 but uphappiness-jar-post-jan-3-post-how-startedon reading my notes I came across this written January 3, 2016: “Read a post shared by Rebecca Scritchfield today about Elizabeth Gilbert’s happiness jar. Every day at the end of the day she jots down the happiest moment and puts it in a jar—an old apothecary jar. I might have to do this in the morning instead b/c that’s my quiet time. But I’m starting it today (and retroactively 1/1 and 1/2).”

I’m glad I found the note because I couldn’t remember where my inspiration came from. Thank you Elizabeth Gilbert.

With the exception of a few days, I faithfully made a daily note and plan to continue in 2017.

No matter what’s going on in life there’s at least one thing to be grateful for, to be happy about. What is it? Why not document those little gems? Some people make a gratitude list but I wanted to follow Elizabeth’s lead. I wanted a happiness jar—Neily’s Happiness Jar.

(If you’re thinking why is a dietitian writing about a happiness jar? What does this have to do with nutrition? Directly nothing. Indirectly everything. As a health professional and certified health coach my work has much to do with the entire being, the well-being of a person. It ties into the emotional and spiritual health of someone’s overall wellness. It’s easier to make sound nutritious decisions when the state of mind is healthy. Right?)

What I did

There are different ways to go about creating a happiness jar but this is what I did.

  1. I found a container at Tuesday Morning (love that store!) and probably spent way too long looking. I wanted it just right but didn’t want to go from store to store to find it. The idea was to find something like an old apothecary jar. Or even a pretty box would work. But this  suited me. I hoped it would fit 365 little pieces of paper.happiness-jar-post-empty-bird-jar
  2. The bird topper sold me. It’s significant because I have a nickname…and not the most sophisticated one. Imagine being known to a nephew as Aunt Bird. Charming. I wonder if he even knows my real name? Side note: It was the popularity of Michael Jackson’s rendition of Rockin’ Robin way back when “all the little birdies on J-Bird Street…” that got my brother calling me J-Bird which eventually got shortened to the very sophisticated Bird. Not. Oh well. Terms of endearment?
  3. Make the slips of paper anything. I happened to have one of those little colored memo pads from Office Depot. You know, the ones they memo-pad-colored-slips-office-depot-bestsell near check out, made for the impulse buy? Yep, got me. I thought it was a post-it note pad. Wrong. It sat on my desk for years rarely being used—until my Happiness Jar.
  4. When I decided to write was a no-brainer. My morning ritual has for years been my coffee, a daily meditation book, and quiet time. Sometimes I journal, depending on what’s going on in my life. Beginning last January though, a quick addition to my ritual was to write on a colored slip of paper the date (the previous day), the words What made me happy? and then whatever it was. Others who have a happiness or gratitude jar choose to do it at night. For me that wouldn’t work (because I would likely forget). Since I already had a morning routine making a note of what made me happy the day before worked perfectly.

So there you have it. Neily’s Happiness Jar. After a year of documenting my daily happiness, I emptied the jar of all the colored paper slips and randomly read a couple. I’ll let you into my world and you can see a few things that made me happy:


Lex wondering what he’s looking at


Lex clearly thinking his hu-mom is nuts

What made me happy?

  • January 1 – Actually writing this on 1/3/16 since I’m doing it retrospectively to catch up. But most happy because a new foster Zaylie came into my life. Another Dane to love and take care of until we find her forever family.
  • January 4 – I took the first step towards getting Lex registered as a therapy dog. Did my first observation visit at a rehab center in Plano. It’s fun to make people smile.
  • January 7 – My hemoglobin (iron) was finally high enough to donate blood.
  • January 12 – I talked to my Uncle Bill—he told me great things about my dad. Memories I don’t have. I guess my dad was a pretty super cool guy. Yes, that made me happy!
  • January 16 – Oh my gosh! I flew to Chicago and surprised my family. How fun to celebrate Uncle David’s 80th birthday with everyone.
  • January 27 – Lex and his BFF Isaac graduated from beginner beginner to advanced beginner at ABOTC obedience school. #soproud
  • January 30 – I finally met my client (name) in person as we did our grocery store tour. We’ve been working together virtually since August. I love my clients!
  • January 31 – I laughed and laughed watching the movie Spy with my friend Walker and eating Fireside Pie pizza. The weather was spectacular.
  • February 9 – Had an amazing call with my client (name) who told me a story about her fabulous week. Love the non-scale victories.
  • February 12 – Another terrific call with client (name). After years of what he described as a sugar addiction he now says, “What addiction?”
  • February 14 – As strange as this may sound, Zaylie did NOT get adopted and that made me happy. The family was just not right. She’s so shy and leaving her with those two five-year olds…whew. Don’t think it would have worked.
  • February 26 – Anticipation of my brother’s visit today and entertaining. Despite having a lot to do, looking forward to it!
  • February 29 (leap year!) – I got my taxes done. Always good to see Marc Lewis and get this task completed.
  • March 6 – Getting a bunch of work down outside—almost finished with my compost pile. Getting the rest of the daffodil bulbs planted. Downton Abbey ended but wrapped up in a bow! A happy ending.
  • March 15 – I didn’t have to teach last night b/c it’s spring break. AND thrilled for my mom—her art work was accepted into a show. She is so talented. Proud of her.
  • March 16 – Going to the mastermind group—my second meeting. I think they’re going to vote me in. (Is this what pledging a sorority is like?!)
  • April 2 – Having a garage sale, having a friend Shannon help me, and getting a bunch of clutter out of my life!
  • April 7 – Finally mowing my lawn—that made me happy. Nice looking lawn and…bonus, exercise.
  • April 14 – Touring the NHANES mobile unit—learning about the research and seeing my colleague Pamela. Lunch with friends Neva and Don.
  • April 26 – Getting up at 5am. I love getting up so early—helps me get a lot done.
  • April 28 – The Texas Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Conference—it was local here in DFW. Had not been to in years. Fun!
  • May 6 – Picking up mom from the airport. Going through my closet and getting rid of clothes…making her dinner.
  • May 7 – Spending a beautiful day with mom—going to downtown McKinney and enjoying time with Jessica. It was a great day!
  • May 15 – Having two doggie play dates for my new foster Tucker—a wild child who needs a lot of energy release.
  • May 24 – A few great client phone calls. Working from home!
  • May 27 – Haha—getting dirty and getting a bunch of free mulch with Shannon in the rain. Worth it. But still need so much more.
  • May 28 – Lex! He passed his therapy test evaluation. So proud of him. Now onto the next step of him being an Alliance Therapy Dog.
  • May 31 – My ‘new’ bookshelf—amazing what a $4 can of spray paint can do to an old black bookcase.
  • June 15 – Lex! At dog class—he’s a rock star! And after months of painstaking de-sensitizing his feet, lots of conditioning, I successfully ‘dremeled’ his nails.
  • June 26 – Cleaning my living room—crazy I know.
  • July 1 – A good poop. (let’s see if anyone is reading)
  • July 3 – Tucker got adopted by a wonderful family—so worth the wait!
  • July 5 – Working with Tim, The English Sweep—learned so much about my fireplace/chimney. And especially thrilled it’s something I can do myself.
  • July 16 – Being involved with the Texas Academy (of Nutrition and Dietetics)—that has made me happy.
  • August 28 – Getting things prepared for my class starting tomorrow night and a fun evening at the dog park…Dietitians and Their Dogs.
  • September 1 – A great day! A new therapist and our first CPE meeting (Northeast Region Texas Academy) featuring Robin Plotkin.
  • September 10 – Lacey got adopted! Lex did stellar therapy work at a cancer expo.
  • September 28 – We had our first Facebook live chat with Amy G and Caroline S for the Northeast Region here at my home—fun!
  • October 1 – It was a beautiful Texas day. Watched a movie with Walker—Room. Great Saturday.
  • October 8 – Beautiful weather and getting more work done on my bathroom…especially getting the door back on. #progress
  • October 15 – After months working on my fireplace—essentially rebuilding it—I got the new ‘guts’ installation and a chimney top. (No more birds’ nests!)
  • October 23 – Mom was here and we did amazing work organizing my utility room.
  • October 25 – Only spending $27 at Dollar Tree and getting over $100 worth of organizing stuff.
  • November 1 – Life. Life made me happy. Meeting my students at The Studio Movie Grill for a documentary.
  • November 2 – That I could be outside in the morning in shorts and a tank. A message from a past adopter…Norman’s family. (He’s 11 years old now. Aging but doing ok!) Cubs win World Series!
  • November 24 – Thanksgiving with the Zerners.
  • December 3 – My working dryer! Saving hundreds by fixing it myself with the help of my friend Walker.
  • December 6 – Taking Lex to Richland College for the Heart of Texas Therapy Dog visit for students.
  • December 12 – Getting my teeth cleaned…on the way in the building a man held the door and said, “I feel I should know who you are …are you on t.v….or something?” Haha. No, but thank you. Or maybe I just fell for a pick up line…
  • December 25, 2016 – Making Christmas dinner for mom, Bud, and Annie – a beautiful crown roast of pork.

Pooh Paper?


Mr. Ellie Pooh’s Elephant Dung Paper

I used most of the colored slips of paper so this year I’ll be using something else that’s been sitting unused for years. I love elephants and my mom gave me this several years ago. It’s been sitting on top of my dresser. I didn’t realize there was a note inside. It’s making me laugh! It’s Mr. Ellie Pooh’s Elephant Dung Paper.

Hey, it’s an award-winning green product. “These handcrafted products were made with a mixture of elephant dung and post consumer paper. They were pulped to perfection by the elephants of Sri Lanka.” How cool is that?  I can’t tell how many pieces of paper there are and might run out before 365 days. I’ll let you know next year.


Let people know

One thing I did as well is let people know if they made me happy. I would take a photo of the paper and along with a pic of my Happiness Jar put it in the Layout app and then text it.

Did someone make you happy? Let them know! I did that today as I wrote this blog and was going through some of the old notes. I just texted a pic of the note letting them know they were appreciated.

These were a few of the pix I created and had sent throughout the year.


What do you think? Do you have a similar ritual? Will you start one? Let me know in the comments below.

Best to you this year!


If you liked this post, you might like this! 7 Secrets to Self-Care You Need During This Time of COVID and Quarantine

Jennifer Neily, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist | Wellcoach® Certified Health Coach



  1. Neva Cochran

    Loved this blog! What a great idea to promote positive mental health and make others feel good, too!

    • Neily

      Thanks Neva! It wasn’t my own idea but I’m glad I learned about it and started doing it. It’s become a nice little ritual!

  2. Danielle

    I love this! It is so easy to forget the good things that happen in a day. Recording them gives them a chance to make us happy again with the memory. So cool that you do this each day. ?

    • Neily

      Thank you Danielle! BTW, you made my happiness jar last fall…I didn’t know you well enough otherwise I would have shared it with you. It was the first few weeks of class and you complimented me on my style of dress – that made me happy! 🙂

  3. Kathryn

    Love this idea! I have been doing a similar thing with Isabella at the end of the day verbally. I think this year we need to do it on paper. Yesterday my happiness was breakfast eating out with my family and playing a game with my daughter.

    • Neily

      Yes Kathryn – I think having it written would be great for you and Isabella! I will save all mine from year to year.

  4. coastingnz

    loved reading through all these – and yes I saw the “poop” one lol


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *