A grateful heart is a happy heart

2009-12-19 13:41

I USED to keep a gratitude journal. At the end of each day I would jot down five things I was grateful for. At first I thought this would be an easy exercise.

But as weeks went by my list got shorter and shorter. There were times I struggled to find one thing to be thankful for at the end of a 14-hour day.

So my list was reduced to:
I’m grateful for my plate of food;
?I’m grateful that I have a roof over my head;
?I’m grateful that I’m healthy;
?I’m grateful for my family; and
I’m grateful that I have petrol money for tomorrow.

I ended up stashing the journal under my bed. I felt depressed by it because every night I was painting a boring picture of my life.

Surely there had to be other things I was grateful for besides a roof over my head and a clean bill of health. And I also realised that being grateful for petrol money?– which I had borrowed from colleagues?– was just an indirect complaint about my salary.

So the journal collected dust under my bed for years until I decided to revisit it two weeks ago.

It was time for me to look back at the year that was and give thanks for the small and big things that came my way.

Not so long ago I didn’t know that I could express thanks for the blessings and good things in my life.

I was worried about what people around me would say if I acknowledged the blessings that I had received.

Or perhaps subconsciously I had this fear that bringing ­attention to the good things in my life might incur bad luck.
So to play it safe I’ve been walking around without a grateful heart.

Truth is, we live in a society which seeks instant gratification and it is so easy to take many things for granted and not demonstrate appreciation.

We are raised to say “thank you”. But so often it comes out of our mouths automatically without really thinking about how grateful and appreciative we are.

Our society has many expectations – good service, a warm meal, safety and the comfort of our homes. Because we’re used to this kind of lifestyle it’s easy to lose a sense of gratitude.

I can think of a couple of ­examples. Instead of being grateful that we hosted a ­successful World Cup draw, we complained about a technical glitch during one of the ­performances.

Instead of being grateful that Benni McCarthy was back to save our national team, we complained that he was too fat.
We are still complaining about the roadworks and the traffic congestion despite the good that is likely to come out of the project.

But to be fair, some of our rantings and ravings were justified. Who could forget Ras Dumisani? While I believe the person who hired him to sing at the Springbok-France rugby match should have had egg on his or her face too, Ras still took the “not ayoba” medal of the year.

Hot on his heels was the team behind the humiliation that Caster Semenya went through after her gold-deserving performance at the World Athletic Championships in Berlin.

The list goes on and on, but I’ll ignore it in the spirit of what this column is about – ­focusing on the positive.
And looking back, it has been a pretty good year.

What I’m personally grateful for is the money I managed to save up for my first real ­holiday.

For two weeks, I’ll be living it up on the white beaches of a foreign country surrounded by nothing but pride in myself for finally making this dream come true.

While there are other things to be thankful for this year this one tops the list because we all know saving money is not child’s play.

But this experience also taught me how to be patient and disciplined – two skills I desperately needed.

So as I get ready to pack, I hope you’ll take the time to give thanks to the universe, ­regardless of your condition, circumstances or status. ­Because the surest way to stay happy is to always be grateful!

Mapiloko is an investigative reporter at City Press

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