I first heard about the Gross National Happiness Index in December when I read Jodi Picoult`s latest novel “The book of two ways”. Apparently, the tiny Himalayan country, Bhutan, started prioritizing the happiness of its people in 1972 by creating an indexation of happiness based on multiple measurable factors.
Imagine having a government that values it`s nation`s happiness above all else! It`s sounds unimaginable! I wasn`t surprised to discover that South Africa ranks 128 according to the World Happiness report, and that according to the World Misery Index (yes, there is indeed really such a thing), South Africa is among “Les Miserables” with a ranking of 10/108. It also comes as no surprise to learn that we are currently rating as the 5th most dangerous country in the world to visit…
…Yeah, I know, it seems like a strange time to be evaluating happiness, but one of the editors of the World Happiness Report recently pointed out something interesting. He said that challenging times can actually increase happiness, and I think his statement rings true.
Yesterday we hosted a special Saturday African step class as part of our New Year Challenge, but the event was open to all our members. As I was rounding the corner of Steynberg Street on my way to the studio, I was met by a line of cars queuing in front of the gate. Everyone was dressed for the occasion and brimming with excitement. The atmosphere was electric and I cannot describe the wonderful warm-fuzzy feeling that came over me watching everyone come together like that!
Afterwards, as Anton and I were packing up all the camera and audio equipment, he said:
“Jy weet, Mirna, daar is soveel “crap” elke dag om ons, dis oomblikke soos hierdie wat die lewe die moeite werd maak.”
In her book “Happiness is an inside job”, Sylvia Boorstein says: “To me, happiness is inner peace. It`s being content in each moment. It`s in embracing the moment we are in. Happiness is staying in the positive. By being grateful for each moment that we have, we find happiness within. It`s not by being happy that we are grateful but it`s the other way around.”
It might be so that the world rank us number 128 when it comes to happiness, but if you ask me, I think we aren’t doing too bad. Instead of raising hell about the name change of Port Elizabeth to Gqeberha, South Africans have once again found the humour in the situation:
While I am writing this Blog, I`m thinking back onto the past week recalling so many moments of pure happiness – There was Eswee`s quick visit, Shareen joining our step class all the way from Dubai in her Springbok Rugby jersey, the wonderful message that our church has opened its doors again and the great news that Karen and Willem are recovering from Covid. When Izelde captured the beautiful rainbow on her way to the studio Thursday afternoon and sent me the photo, my heart just burst with happiness…
I couldn`t help but smile when Tracey, Lilian, Mizelle and Liezel sent me their home workouts in their camo outfits on Saturday morning, and you have no idea how happy I am about the prospect of spending this coming winter, in the studio, with live members. Yes, normally this time of year I get a bit downhearted about the whole idea of getting up early on those very cold winter mornings that are drawing near. But this year, I really won’t mind. Those five long months last year, all alone at the studio during lockdown, has given me a whole new perspective.
Brené Brown puts it well in her book “The Gifts of Imperfection”:
“Joy is not a constant. It comes to us in moments—often ordinary moments. Sometimes we miss out on the bursts of joy because we’re too busy chasing down extraordinary moments.”
The concept of the pursuit of happiness tells us that happiness is out there somewhere to be found. Under this idea, happiness seems to be something we can find outside of ourselves. That if something happens, then we will be happy. Covid has taught me that it`s wrong to think about happiness that way. There is already talk of a third wave coming, and if it does, it`s NOT going to steal our happiness. Is it?
When it comes to happiness, maybe we all just need a new perspective. I recall a visit with my mother to my Ouma Grimm many years ago in her retirement village in Pretoria. I was only ten years old, but I remember that day as if it were yesterday. As we were leaving, she said to mom: “Remember, Lettie, be happy.” For a long time, I thought it was a salutation, like “have a good day”, but now I`m beginning to realize that it was an instruction, to “be happy”, and not only was it an instruction, but it was a wisdom transmission too. That happiness was a possibility…
I think when my grandmother said, “Be happy”, she meant be awake, be alert, be present in your life. I think she meant, “It`s your life, Lettie, don`t miss it…”
Happiness is your and my responsibility, alone. “Happiness is a choice”, says the best-selling author Barry Neil Kaufman.
I would like to leave you this week with the story of the pony, one that Ronald Reagan loved to tell his staff when things were bad: The story concerns twin boys of five or six. Worried that the boys had developed extreme personalities – one was a total pessimist, the other a total optimist – their parents took them to a psychiatrist.
First the psychiatrist treated the pessimist. Trying to brighten his outlook, the psychiatrist took him to a room piled to the ceiling with brand-new toys. But instead of yelping with delight, the little boy burst into tears. ‘What’s the matter?’ the psychiatrist asked, baffled. ‘Don’t you want to play with any of the toys?’ ‘Yes,’ the little boy bawled, ‘but if I did, I’d only break them.’
“Next the psychiatrist treated the optimist. Trying to dampen his outlook, the psychiatrist took him to a room piled to the ceiling with horse manure. But instead of wrinkling his nose in disgust, the optimist emitted just the yelp of delight the psychiatrist had been hoping to hear from his brother, the pessimist. Then he clambered to the top of the pile, dropped to his knees, and began gleefully digging out scoop after scoop with his bare hands. ‘What do you think you’re doing?’ the psychiatrist asked, just as baffled by the optimist as he had been by the pessimist. ‘With all this manure,’ the little boy replied, beaming, ‘there must be a pony in here somewhere!’
May you see all the rainbows and laugh enough this coming week. May you not search for happy moments but instead create them. When things go wrong, look for the pony. And when you want to be happy, just be.
Yours in fitness
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