Ah, happiness. Such a complicated word. Does anyone even know what it means? Or is the point that we each give it the meaning we think it has? A discussion I regularly have with people around me is whether happiness can be defined by having everything in your life be perfect, by learning to dance in the rain, or by making the little things matter as much as the big ones if not more.

I think the very idea of happiness is intrinsically linked to gratitude. It is impossible to be happy if you lack the capacity to appreciate what you have and instead spend your time worrying about what you do not have. Recently I have gotten quite angry at people complaining about the economic crisis – this does not mean there are not people who suffer tremendously from it, but I mean complaints coming from those who live a pretty decent life but can’t afford to go on vacation five times a year anymore. You see I think it is important for us to realize several things. For starters, with the exception of Greece and maybe Spain amid the crisis nowadays, we live in countries where life is made quite easy for us with good infrastructure, education systems open to all, safety nets, etc. Just look at a city center or parking lot of a mall on any given Saturday afternoon. Or see what people have in their carts when checking out of the supermarket. Good thing we’re supposedly broke, because I honestly have no idea what it would be if we weren’t. I go to a school where easily 70% of the student body have a Macbook Pro plus an iPhone or equally expensive smartphone, yet we all complain about being broke students (ok not everyone complains). But I digress. My point is that as soon as you take a moment to reflect, you will realize that you are an incredibly lucky human being who has a place to live, a family, some friends, an education, and all that in a country where even with no income you are still considered to be a part of the top 10% of the World population when it comes to wealth. Let that sink in for a moment.

This means that most of us don’t have to worry about our physical well-being and that we can start worrying about our first world problems. What I wanted to show was that life is beautiful. My favorite mantra is probably “Everything happens for a reason.” Every once in a while bad things will happen, as they do to everyone. Some of these will be much harder on you than others, like losing a loved one. But then maybe after a while, you will walk into a bookstore and realize that you will be okay because you can still find joy in the things you used to. Or someone will pick up the pieces and tell you everything is going to be fine. Sometimes you will be on your own and will suddenly be able to rejoice in funny cat gifs on Buzzfeed or a good TV show. The reason I’m writing this is because one of my friends is struggling with anxiety about the small things in life, and it made me realize that the key to how we see life really does lie in our own hands. It is up to us to decide how we are going to feel about the world we live in and about our life in general. In my opinion we have a beautiful world and mankind is remarkable. In good ways and bad, but remarkable it is. We have built entire countries from nothing. My favorite example of this is the work done by Haussmann in Paris. You have to realize that the way Paris looks today is the result of one man’s imagination. Someone who decided that large boulevards and those beautiful Parisian buildings that cover the entire city center were the way to go. That is not to say that we only do nice things which have positive impacts; far from it. But it is up to every single one of us to decide which is more important in our everyday life: the good or the bad. It’s the well-known “glass half-empty vs. glass half-full” dichotomy. I do not believe my family was particularly unhappy when we were dirt poor for example, except maybe for the fact that today we have less to worry about.

I have a place to live. I have a family who loves me and whom I love. I have friends. I go to an excellent university where I truly enjoy studying. Today I ate bacon-wrapped aspargus which was utterly delicious. There is a serving of ice cream awaiting me in the freezer in case of need. The other day I went to see The Great Gatsby and it was amazing. I have both a laptop and an Internet access, which allow me to write this blog. Not to mention the fact that I am literate. I have a decent amount of awareness of the world which surrounds me. If my clothes get dirty I can just throw them in the machine and they’ll be clean an hour later without me having to virtually do anything. I could go on and on. The point is that there are plenty of things to rejoice about in life. Not everything will ever be perfect, and that is exactly the point. Where would the fun in that be? Our happiness is mostly dependent upon ourselves, and one of the most imporant elements in this is gratitude. Because once you become appreciative of everything (material and not) you have, you will realize that seeing the glass half-full makes life more exciting, and furthermore, you’ll learn to reach for the tap if needed.

As per usual, I shall conclude with a quote from the Sisterhood (yes, I devoured those books). “Maybe happiness didn’t have to be about the big, sweeping circumstances, about having everything in your life in place. Maybe it was about stringing together a bunch of small pleasures. Wearing slippers and watching the Miss Universe contest. Eating a brownie with vanilla ice cream. Getting to level seven in Dragon Master and knowing there were twenty more levels to go. Maybe happiness was just a matter of the little upticks- the traffic signal that said “Walk” the second you go there- and downticks- the itch tag at the back of your collar- that happened to every person in the course of the day.”