No matter your race, gender, occupation or hometown, everyone wants to be happy. However, many people don’t know what to do to get ultimate happiness. Some think happiness is based on what you have or what you get. If you are given the new Michael Kors purse, or the latest iPad, you will be happy. But if life is based on what you have, you will never have enough or be happy enough. There is always going to be a newer phone or a faster car. “Happiness isn’t a happening, it is a state of mind…. Happiness comes from mastering the art of appreciating” (Aish.com). Once you acknowledge and appreciate everything you have, you will feel truly blessed and you will not lack for anything. You will simply feel pure joy because you recognize you have been given so much to be thankful for.

The second we wake up in the morning we say, “Modeh ani lefanecha melech chai vekayam shehechezarta bi nishmati behemla rabah emunasecha,” which is showing G-d our appreciation and gratitude for waking us up in the morning. Later, after washing our hands we say the Morning Blessings, which thank G-d for everything we have – sight, clothes, being Jewish, etc. We are meant to start off our day recognizing that we have so much to be grateful for. If we truly focus on all the good in our lives, how could we see the bad? Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis says, “Through this process, we learn to see good in the myriad things that most people take for granted. There is no room for melancholy or depression, because throughout the day we must focus on our blessings and give thanks” (The Committed Life). When someone steps on our foot we have the choice to scream at the person, or acknowledge the Creator who gave you the foot in the first place and thank Him. It may sound silly, but in reality it is a level we should aspire to. If we constantly appreciate and focus on the good, there is no bad, no harm, and no struggles. Then, everything will be seen as good from G-d.

A couple years ago, when we moved from Texas to California, my family lost everything from the moving trucks. Almost everything we owned, whether it was clothing, furniture or memories, was taken from us in what seemed like one instant. I still remember not having a bed to sleep on or any winter clothing for the cold weather. Yet I also remember that at one point after the tragedy I said thanks to G-d. I thanked Him because my old clothes were gone, and I realized it was a sign to start afresh. No more jeans, no more low cut shirts. I was given the opportunity to make my wardrobe modest, because I knew if I still had all my old clothing, it would be much harder to change. Once I was able to see at least one good outcome of the situation, no matter how minimal, I started seeing all aspects of the struggle as good. Martha Washington said, “I am determined to be cheerful and happy in whatever situation I may find myself. For I have learned that the greater part of our misery or unhappiness is determined not by our circumstance but by our disposition.” We have to see that even when situations are hard, there is always good that comes from the hardship. We have to smile even when it is hard! G-d wouldn’t give us hardships just to see us fail. He knows that we can reach a greater level of faith through the struggle. Once we are able to have this perspective constantly, everything becomes good, and we can live in a constant state of happiness.

Appreciating and seeing the good in everything doesn’t just mean life situations and physicality. It also encompasses recognizing the good in ourselves. Rebbi Nachman of Breslov says that it is important to give the benefit of the doubt to others, striving to see at least one good thing in everyone, including the wicked. However, even more, so we need to see the good in ourselves (Crossing the Narrow Bridge). We were created in G-d’s image, b’tzelem elokim, so we are ultimately good. The struggle with many is remembering at all times that we are precious and holy beings. We were put in this world to accomplish great things, so if we don’t see the good in ourselves, how can we do good for others? If we don’t see the good in ourselves, we are not able to accomplish anything; we are left with empty self-worth and empty lives.

The key to happiness is simply seeing good and doing good. See your good traits and use them to do good. See your struggles as good and conquer them with a smile. See everything you have as a blessing from G-d, and use all you have to help others. Constantly see yourself, others, and life itself as positive, and all the hardships and negative thoughts will disappear as you feel utter appreciation and true happiness.

Student Studying in Sharfmans