Two years ago, a friend and I met at a bistro to share a cheese plate and a glass of wine and talk about an idea we had. We were both stressed in different ways, and wanted to find more time for ourselves and for the things we loved.

We started by answering this question: “In the past five years, what were your three happiest days, and why?”  In analyzing our answers, we discovered some things we had in common. Our happy days usually revolved around experiencing or learning something new, travel, laughter, friendship, and accomplishment. So we decided that each month, we would try something at least one of us had never done before. It could be an activity or an exotic dish at a restaurant or a class to learn a new skill.

My sister-in-law recently asked what my favorite “happiness project” has been. Hands down, the week my friend and I spent in Paris. How will we ever top that? She asked about the “worst” experience. I’d say the college open mic comedy night, which was awkward in ten different ways.

But even when one of our projects doesn’t work (we both stunk at the Bollywood dance class), the experience gives us something to laugh about. And laughter is part of what we are seeking.

What this project has taught me is that happiness, like everything else, requires work. It would be nice to think we could just make up our minds to be gleeful, then wake up every morning with a smile on our face and Disney bluebirds singing on our pillows. But to be truly content, we have to think first about what makes us happy, and then go out and pursue those things. And we must identify the people who make us feel good and find time to spend with them. And, of course, we need to look for work that brings us joy, because it’s pretty hard to be happy if you spend 8-10 hours a day doing something you hate.

Am I saying we need to schedule happiness? Sure, why not? Gives you something to look forward to and ensures you connect with the people you like most. As the immortal Lucille Ball once said, “It’s a helluva start, being able to recognize what makes you happy.”