Gratitude – The Art of Happiness

Last week, I had the privilege of being the guest speaker at the Bridge House School Founder’s Day in the beautiful Franschoek valley. I’ve spoken at many schools over the years and I was impressed most by how such a “young” school (19 years old) had such a strong sense of community and spirit. Bridge House is centred around a “Can Do” attitude and the theme for Founder’s Day was GRATITUDE.Nicky Abdinor

Let me tell you what I’m grateful for…

Brother David Steindal-Rast, a monk and scholar, said in his TED talk that one thing that all humans have in common is the desire to be happy. Why do some people seem to have it all, but are deeply unhappy; while others seem to have so many challenges in their lives, but radiate joy? He says that it’s not necessarily that happy people are grateful, but  rather that grateful people are happy.

As a Psychologist, I encourage those who I work with to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is about living in the here and now – living in the present moment. In our busy lives, how often do we stop and absorb the present? Take in the beauty of our surroundings. When we do one thing, are we already thinking of the next?

Too often, we are stuck in the past – the “if only’s” – if only I had studied more for my test, if only I was more like my friend, then I’d be more talented, popular and athletic. We need to be grateful for our uniqueness. Imagine how uninteresting life would be if we all came first in class, if everyone made the first cricket team and if we all looked the same.

Besides living in the past, we can also spend too much time worrying about the future – the “What ifs” – what if I fail a test, what if no one asks me to the matric dance. Can we really know for CERTAIN what’s in our future? We can motivate ourselves to work harder, set goals, but ultimately, we need to learn to tolerate uncertainty; be ok with not knowing everything. Stop missing today by worrying about tomorrow.

We cannot change the past. We cannot control the future. We can be grateful for today. Grateful people are happy people.