Last week my mom showed me this video of kids somewhere on the continent of Africa outside dancing, smiling and having a wonderful time in their shantytown. We watched those kids exude happiness through their smiles, expressions and movement. Most people would look at those “dancing kids” and wonder why and how they can be so happy when they are living in the slums, their clothing is stained with the dust from the dirt roads they walk on,  they’re not wearing new shoes; they have their own tablet and they definitely don’t have the newest video gaming system.

We often confuse happiness with pleasure and the accumulation of stuff. I find pleasure in having fun with loved ones and friends; enjoying a play or concert; having a great meal; the spontaneity of an amusing midweek gathering of friends; and the physicality and beauty of working with my husband in our garden. However, pleasure is fleeting and stuff eventually gets worn out. How can one continually be happy if happiness is dependent on activities, material things, and experiences?

Happiness International defines happiness as life fulfilling your needs. Let that set in for a second, happiness is when your life fulfills your needs.

I start my day with gratitude practice, the practice has evolved over time but these days it involves me recording a minimum of 5 things (people, moments, experiences, etc) and one picture from the previous day that brings a smile to my face on a journal app on my phone. In those moments of introspection, reflection and stillness I’m able to see how my life is fulfilling my needs.

I wrote an entire chapter in my book, Seize Your Life: How to Carpe Diem Every Day” on how living in the state of “when I” or being extremely focused on the future instead of the present we miss the blessings we already have. We also miss life fulfilling our needs if we only focus on our wants.