11/05/2014 02:47 pm ET Updated Jan 05, 2015

The Importance of Creating Our Own Happiness

In May I returned home from two weeks of spring break/Passover in Miami to find a white rabbit on my lawn. Something just wasn't quite right. While my lawn is normally populated by cotton-tailed creatures throughout the spring, I had never seen a pure-white bunny out there.

I panicked. I have a love for animals that blossomed after getting my dog five years ago. It seems that wherever I am you will most likely find me saying hello to the nearest puppy or pigeon. Upon seeing this little bunny I knew right away that he was homeless and did not belong in the "rugged" suburban New Jersey outdoors. I made some calls and posted on social media to see if the little fella belonged to anybody.

When I couldn't find an owner and the animal shelter could not come to pick him up (he only reared his little fuzzy head after hours), I decided to mentally adopt him. I couldn't bring him inside, but I sat out there with him, feeding him celery. I named him Felix.

Five months later it continues to excite me each time I see the little guy. I tend to stop and talk to him, feeding him and asking him how it's going. A morning when I see Felix is generally a good morning. It gives me a little bounce in my step, this simple of pleasure of spotting the white rabbit that has survived until this point, living off the northern New Jersey lawns.

I was recently speaking to someone about the trials and tribulations of grad school: little money, hard work, endless papers, non-existent social life, and a growing mountain of coffee receipts. It is easy to get overwhelmed by life, no matter where one is along the journey. Oftentimes we expect things to suddenly turn around, to somehow become wonderful. We envision a theme song and sunshine and skipping. This fantasy generally takes root when things get tough.

When we are faced with difficulty that leaves remnants of sadness and bitterness in our daily lives, we are confronted with the challenge to turn things around. I know that when something is wrong my first inclination is to fix it. I work to bring forth feelings of inner peace, experiencing the desire to know that I did all that I could. And then, once I've done everything I can, I wait. I wait for the feeling of being broken or frustrated or confused to simply pass. But sometimes the waiting period is the hardest. When I was in recovery from anorexia I pushed and pushed each and every day. Once I committed to working past my eating disorder, there were still many long months of pain and tears, of feelings of self-loathing and turmoil. I knew that I was doing all I could and yet internally I still was not at peace. And that was when my therapist reminded me that I needed to start living. It wasn't simply that I could stop the negative behaviors; I also needed to incorporate more positivity into my life.

And so I started with little things; at the time nothing really felt easy, but I was able to understand that I should push myself to do things that were somewhat enjoyable and that could bring some life back into my existence. I found books to read that I enjoyed. My father and I began fencing each week, a hobby that always left me rosy cheeked and smiling. And once I placed my foot on the boat of life's little pleasures, the joy set sail.

Felix is one of those little pleasures. Each time I see him I brighten, knowing that he's all right and munching on the grass, hopping around like he always does. I've also learned that amid stress and deadlines and life's little turbulences, having things that make me smile is key. I can still attempt to deal with each day as it comes, but knowing what helps me smile and that it is within reach is key. When it isn't Felix, it's doing something kind for a person who needs it. Or some days it's sitting on the swings outside with a comforting song in the background. We can sit and wait for the major joys, for the celebrations and "happiness," or we can create our own small happiness each day without depending on others.

Felix reminded me that the most mundane of things could put a skip in my step. Reflecting on graduate school and where I am in life reminded me that each day can be lived fully knowing that I can create some of my own happiness. There is a sign in my room that reads: "Your future depends on many things but mostly on you." It is time we all live this by saying and find that even with the turmoil, we can smile each and every day because of something as simple as a white rabbit.

If you're struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.