Gretchen Rubin

A secret to happiness: “Be a storehouse of happy memories.”

A secret to happiness: “Be a storehouse of happy memories.”

Today is the Big Girl's last day of second grade. She's thrilled, but for me, as always with these milestones, it's bitter-sweet. The days are long, but the years are short.

One of my resolutions is to "Be a storehouse of happy memories," and one tradition that I started years ago, almost accidentally, was taking a photograph on the first and last day of school each year. I have the Big Girl (and starting next year, the Little Girl) hold up a sign that says "Last day of second grade—June 14, 2007" or whatever.

It makes a great keepsake. I wish that I'd been organized enough to start a special photo album, just with these pictures, so we could more easily see the changes over the years. I didn't think to do that, so they're just sprinkled in the albums among the other pictures, but they're still fun to see.

Research shows that a good way to boost happiness is to reflect on happy times in the past, and looking at photographs—or any other memento—is a good way to prompt your recollections.

Also, although taking a photo is easy and takes only a second, the tradition of making the sign and taking the photograph adds a little bit to the special quality of these first/last days, and that's important to me, because I want my children to understand the importance of school.

I make extra copies and send them off to the grandparents, too. So little work, so many happiness resolutions fulfilled!

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