If you couldn't tell already from my blog, I care a lot about clothes and fancy stationery and expensive pastries. While that is completely fine, I have to admit that I'm a pretty materialistic person. I care so much about the things that I have and often feel happier whenever I purchase something new. I'm not afraid to admit that new things make me happy, materialistic goods often make me happy. That's not to say that I'm never happy from moments instead of material goods, but they're just some of the things that contribute to my overall happiness. But do I really need a lot to be happy? I'm privileged, I have lived my entire life in a nice, middle class family in a first world country. I have a nice house, a bed to sleep in, running water, clean facilities, expensive clothes that I probably don't even need, and so much more. We see first world problems as jokes, but in reality, they can be a wake up call to remind us how lucky we are.
When I was in China, I often complained about the toilets. I didn't like how the toilets were holes in the ground instead of clean toilets that I'm used to. But it's crazy to think that some people don't even have running water. Some people don't have food on their plate, constantly worrying about when their next meal might come. Some people don't have a home, they're not nearly privileged enough to have things like a Macbook or a television, yet for us, we complain about not having the newest iPhone or not having designer clothes. When I visited a primary school in the Hubei province of China, I wasn't really expecting the kids to be the way that they were. The school was dingy, there were concrete floors, scratched walls, old desks, and it was definitely not up to par. In America, I complain if the room is too cold or too hot or if the wifi is working too slow. Note that I also definitely do not have the best facilities at my small school, after all, we only have one boys bathroom, so it's clearly not the best building. However, this school doesn't nearly match up to the facilities that I have. What I want to emphasize is that they definitely did not have the best standard of living and did not have a lot besides the basics in their lives. Sure, they weren't starving and malnourished, but their conditions were easily less than ideal.
However, one thing that stood out to me about them was that they were so happy. They were so happy to see us, to spend time with us, to get to know us, even though it was difficult to communicate. They smiled, constantly laughed, and were careless, as if they didn't have anything in the world to worry about. Maybe their school wasn't the best it could be and they didn't have the best clothes and technology, but they were so joyful. What they had was enough for them to be happy. They were friendly to each other, friendly to us, appreciative of the time that they had with us. They were kind and playful, like every child should be. However, in this day and age, children are spending their time playing games on iPads or watching cartoons instead of playing with others. These Chinese children may have not had iPads to play Pokemon Go or Subway Surfers, but they were still so cheerful to be with one another.
So how can you live happier with less? I'm not saying that it's wrong to take joy in new things, like a phone or a laptop, but it's important to appreciate what you have. It's important to be wary of envy, to love the things that you have in your life and not be jealous of others with more. It means that just because you don't have the latest car model or the newest Macbook, doesn't mean that you can't be happy. It is absolutely possible to be happy, even when you don't have a lot. So why do we complain so much about these small things that we don't even need for happiness? I think that the main reason for this is that we begin to take things for granted. We get so used to having all these wonderful privileges in our lives that we forget what life is without them. We think that it's impossible to be happy without these material goods.
At the end of the day, I have to say to myself that I need to complain less. I need to rely less on materialistic goods. I need to realize that I can be happy with less. If I miss out on the Lilly Pulitzer After Party sale, that's okay. I don't need to depend on bold printed shift dresses to make me happy. When someone else has something that I had been wanting for a long time, I shouldn't be envious, instead I should remember all the things that I do have. I know that most of the time we tend to leave appreciation and thankfulness as something just for Thanksgiving, for a special occasion, but why limit ourselves to just one day?
I challenge you to write down one thing in your life every day that makes you happy. Maybe it's your family. Maybe it's your pet. Maybe it's being able to have food on your plate. Or maybe it is a materialistic good, like your favorite dress, that one that makes you feel insanely confident. The important thing is that you appreciate something that you already have, whether it's a tangible object or something else in your life. It's a way to count your blessings.