Drawing Happiness

Boy with glasses holding up note and drawing.

Top: a shy young woman in Vietnam. Below: a passengers on the New York City subway contributes to Janne's project. Photographs by Janne Willems

One woman travels the world collecting joyful moments on paper.

“Would you like to share a beautiful moment of your last week?” Janne Willems of the Netherlands has opened with this line to thousands of strangers in front of coffee shops, on commuter trains, at schools, parks, hotels and along the streets of more than 30 countries since 2010. She carries a stack of large index cards, colorful markers and a request that at first puzzles passers-by. “Just draw a picture of what has made you happy in the last few days. Try it! It’s fun, I promise,” she says.

Her earnest enthusiasm bubbles up from experience—she knows this simple task brings people joy. The exercise began as a personal one in college to remind her of the precious moments in life that flew by, often too fast to notice. Her happy habit turned into a lifeline when her mother became severely ill and died.

“The day she was cremated was the day I wrote down the most amount of beautiful moments in a day ever,” Janne says. “I thought, ‘if this works for me, it probably also works for others.’ So I decided to get into a train and ask people to share.”

A few of the most popular themes are nature, friendship, love, animals and home, she says. She saves each card, scans it for a digital copy and keeps the most powerful stories tucked away in her heart.

“There was a man in Nepal who couldn’t read or write and drew a butterfly coming out of its cocoon. It took him a long time, as you can imagine he was not used to using a pen, so it was difficult for him to learn to hold it and start to draw.” Janne adds that, “When people start to share what matters to them, they begin to light up and everyone becomes happier.

“That’s really cool to be a part of.”

Follow Janne's travels and take her e-course at seizeyourmoments.com.


Donna Stokes is the Executive Editor of Live Happy magazine.

From the February 2017 issue of Live Happy magazine.

 

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