How the #100HappyDays Challenge Helped Me Thrive

You can only take care of someone else as much as you take care of YOU. You can't serve others until you serve yourself, you can't love anyone else until you love yourself, and you certainly can't give what you don't have. It's just one of those universal truths.
10/27/2014 05:26 pm ET Updated Dec 27, 2014

I only made one New Year's resolution this year. It was to do more of what I wanted and less of what anyone else told me to do. Last year I turned 30, and in typical fashion, that year served up a tidal wave of life lessons, including heartbreaks, death, and humbling physical injuries.

The biggest lesson of all was that I couldn't expect to be happy unless I was taking really good care of myself. Sure, from an outsider's perspective it sounds selfish to focus solely on doing what you want and making yourself happy, but the fact of the matter is you can only take care of someone else as much as you take care of YOU. You can't serve others until you serve yourself, you can't love anyone else until you love yourself, and you certainly can't give what you don't have. It's just one of those universal truths.

I caught wind of the 100 Happy Days project early this year on Instagram when a celebrity I follow captioned one of her posts with the #100HappyDays hashtag. It's a simple challenge that asks, "Can you be happy for 100 days in a row?" Every day for 100 days, challengers must take a picture of what makes them happy and post it to their favorite social network. I love snapping camera phone pictures, but the project website really hooked me when I read the following line: "#100happyday challenge is for you -- not for anyone else." My thoughts? "Hell yes. I'm in."

I made a commitment to start my own challenge in early March. I was feeling excited and figured the worst-case scenario is I wouldn't finish it but would probably start updating my Instagram page more often. What did I have to lose?

The next few months turned out to be some of the most thrilling, productive, truth-telling, and juicy months of my life so far. Certainly, there were easy days when I had several happy and fun things to share, but on the bad days, my iPhone calendar happy reminders forced me to get out of my routine, get creative, and recognize when I was working too hard.

Told best through my pictures, here's a sample of some of my favorite moments of my #100HappyDays:

Day 1: I went back to weekly dancehall hip-hop classes.

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Day 6: I took hot bubble baths with a rubber duckie.

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Day 17: I climbed out on a creaky fire escape to watch the sunset.

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Day 27: I swooned at the loud and crazy energy in Manhattan at the arrival of the spring season.

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Day 33: I blasted a D'Angelo live album on my headphones while walking home in the rain.

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Day 40: I waited 45 minutes in freezing weather for my favorite guacamole at The Taco Truck.

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Day 50: I stayed home on a Friday night to write in my journal with candles and aromatherapy.

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Day 57: I flew to Tampa for the weekend to see OutKast reunite at the Big Guava Music Fest with my sister.

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Day 64: I brought homemade chocolate coffee cupcakes to a bar for my friend's birthday.

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Day 68: I ate chocolate for breakfast.

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Day 77: I bought fancy, way too expensive cherries and shared them with coworkers.

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Day 92: I spent a whole afternoon watching bees pollenate flowers at the local botanical garden.

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Day 94: I bartered with a complete stranger on Twitter to swap macaroons for music.

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Day 97: I quit my job and partied hard at my farewell happy hour.

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Day 100: I woke up early to watch the sunrise on the beach in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

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The #100HappyDays challenge helped me remember how lucky I am. If I was having a bad day, I sought out happiness in the small things I could control, and looking back, those were often the most precious moments. It pushed me to proudly share my positive outlook with friends and strangers and notice how it lightened them up too. It gave me permission to do what I really wanted, including finishing writing my cookbook, partying instead of sleeping, telling the truth to an ex-boyfriend, and taking a vacation by myself because I felt like it. The effects were nothing short of extraordinary, and I'm without a doubt living a happier, more fulfilled life.