40 Days of Happiness & Joy

40 Days of Happiness & Joy

by Mei Mei Fox for the Huffington Post

In January, I posted a blog that went viral: "40 Ways to Find Joy in Your Everyday Life." About a week later, I started noticing tweets from a fellow named Khary Penebaker (whom I've never met), about how he was checking items off the list. I reached out to him via Twitter to ask if he'd be interested in going on a #40DaysofJoy journey with me, in which he'd commit to performing one item off the "40 Ways to Find Joy" list every day for 40 consecutive days. Khary was game. We became Facebook as well as Twitter friends, and for the next 40 days, Khary utterly delighted and inspired me with his tweets, Facebook posts, and emails.

Later, I interviewed Khary over the phone. When I asked what inspired him to take this journey, he said, "I'm always looking for ways to appreciate what I have in my life more."

Did #40DaysofJoy work? Absolutely, Khary said. "Sometimes I found I was doing an item on the list just because I had to. But as soon as I got caught up in whatever that activity was, I just couldn't help but want to do more of it. I thought it'd be just another challenge. It ended up being far more awesome than that."

Then he added, "MeiMei, I wish I could change the world… But for now, I will work on changing mine, one day of joy at a time." (Heart melting.)

In this blog, I share Khary's story, as well as the photos he took while practicing 40 Days of Joy. I'd love for you to join us. Just tweet or post to Facebook how you celebrated an item off the list (in no particular order), with a photo if you can, using the hashtag #40DaysofJoy. Let's inspire each other to find gratitude and happiness in our everyday lives!

1. Play with kids.

Khary often finds himself spending "too much time focused on making money," working long hours. Checking this item off the list granted him permission to take time to have a fun, fully-engaged Nerf swordfight with his son. It reminded him that his kids come first.

2. Play like a kid.

The day Khary completed this item, his son was having a birthday party at a place with huge slides. Although Khary had had a horrible day at work and arrived feeling angry and frustrated, by the time he left the party he felt much better. "Just watching those kids be kids made me forget why I was mad. I began to breathe easier," Khary said.

3. Learn something new (whether how to play a new sport or game, or how to cook a new dish).

Instead of learning something new, Khary taught his 5-year-old son something new: how to play baseball.

4. Get out in nature.

5. Help someone in a small way (just by carrying their groceries or paying their toll on the highway).

"I was real nervous about this one," Khary said. But one day, he decided to accomplish this item by paying for the lunch of the person behind him in line. He didn't tell the stranger what he'd done. Khary said he felt silly and embarrassed after, even though he had done something nice for another person. He vowed to try again — and maybe even let the stranger know about his generosity next time.

6. Count your blessings.

Khary made a list of his many blessings including: his wife, Amanda, who is "selfless, has a heart of gold and loves me and our kids more than anything else"; his kids; love; and God, who "never gave up on me." My favorite item on his list was this: "I am grateful for my past struggles. Frederick Douglas said it best: 'Without struggle, there is no progress.' Now, if I could remember that all the time, I'd be better off!"

7. Spend time with your pet.

8. Travel.

Khary took a work trip recently, which ended with a leg on a prop plane. Even though he is afraid of flying, he managed to let go of his fear by surrendering to God. "I thought of this list," Khary said, "and I told myself that there was nothing to be afraid of."

9. Nurture romance (spend time just kissing your partner, buy a surprise gift, write a love letter).

Khary claimed that he isn't good at romantic stuff — at all. But he wrote an amazing love letter to his wife, and made this photo out of paper shreds to go with it. He took the passage "Love is patient; love is kind," from First Corinthians, which he and his wife had read at their wedding, and added his own context to it.

Khary wrote to his wife, "You can have it all, but without Love, you have nothing. I was a millionaire by the time I was 26, yet I was miserable. Now I am a hundredaire, yet I have you; my life has been made a bazillion times better!"

10. Dress up in costume for no reason.

Khary and his son had a blast putting on their Halloween costumes in March…

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