The mum-daughter duo bringing joy through jars

Two years ago, after Karen Nicholson, 57, had retired, she made big plans for what she’d do with her work-free weeks. She wanted to visit her son and grandchildren in China, and spend more time with family. But a few months later, lockdown hit. Her plans to travel were scuppered. 

“I was really missing my family,” she tells Smiley News. One afternoon, in the midst of March 2020, Karen, who lives in Fleetwood in Lancashire, went into her garage and found a couple of jars from her son’s wedding in 2014. They made her smile for the first time in weeks. 

She wondered: if a jar with a beautiful memory could make her smile, what could a jar decorated and filled with memories do to boost her mood? And so Jars of Joy was born.

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Karen and her mum, “Sparkly” Margaret, 88, asked a friend to decorate their jars – which gave her friend joy – and then she filled it with memories and things that made her smile: a small doll her grandchildren bought her and some tickets to events she’d enjoyed. She wanted to spread the idea, so set up a Facebook group and started going live with her mum, speaking about how lockdown was making them feel, but also how their jars of joy had lifted their moods. 

The response was overwhelming, and lots of people united together as a way to increase joy in their lives. So Karen set the goal of having a million Jars of Joy around the world.

Why a jar, you ask? Because they’re transparent, so when it’s filled up with memories you can see what’s inside. Through the Facebook group and social media pages, Karen and Margaret encouraged others to create their own joys. During Facebook lives, they’d share what was in their jars, speak about how they were feeling, and spread positivity. They also streamed on Twitter for more than 100 days in a row. 

“We want to encourage people to step into joy,” says Karen. “You can choose to do that – it’s fine if you don’t, but there is a choice.”

Karen says people would engage with them online and then go off and buy jars for friends. They’d decorate jars and share photos, or post online what had bought them joy. The movement began – and it shows no signing of slowing down.

Lanterns of joy

At Christmas, Karen and her mum provided materials and did workshops with local children to create “lanterns of joy”. “It was so lovely to see small children enjoying making them along with their parents,” says Karen. “It was what I’d waited for – knowing the impact it could have, but seeing it was massive.”

Jars of Joy was picked up my local press and radio, and got the word out there to thousands of people who were needing more joy in their lives.

So what’s next for the duo? “We’re launching a podcast soon,” says Karen. “We just really want to get that message of joy out there.”

They want to take Jars of Joy into the world as much as possible, so it’s not only a virtual movement. The pair have been asked to do workshops in the community to promote and improve wellbeing, as helping people with dementia and in hospices.

“We really want to encourage people to join our conscious community of joy,” adds Karen.

Inspired to act?

GET INVOLVED: Become part of the community by finding out more on Jars of Joy’s website.

SPREAD THE WORD: Follow them on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook

DONATE: Do you want to help a charity bring more joy into people’s lives. Donate to Action for Happiness.