Two weeks ago the Western Cape was washed with wind, rain and snow, yet again, though now that I am living on the edge of the Karoo there wasn’t so much rain as snow and cold temperatures! The water storage dams in the Western Cape are nearing 100% for the first time in several years. So what have the Capetonians learned about water scarcity? We have learned not to complain about the rain because we need it!
But why does human nature need to be deprived of something to appreciate it? I have found myself during Lockdown turning to friends in a way that I would never have done if I was not cut off from society by enforced isolation. What did we do before Zoom and Whatsapp? Would I have sat down and felt true gratitude for all the friends I have if I had not been so cut off from society in general?
When things go back to the “New Normal” will I maintain that sense of gratitude? What I mean, is once I have people around me again will I still appreciate my friends with the same sense of gratitude I feel now? When the dams are full, will the Capetonians return to using water without stopping to think?
This led me to do some research on Gratitude. I found that many people drop their gratitude practice after a short while. I can attest to that, I have tried to start a gratitude journal several times but never kept it up. The researchers say we need to ensure we don’t settle into a boring routine, by keeping it alive. One recommendation which particularly resonated for me was to have 3 – 5 different things to be grateful for each day. No repeating things from one day to the next. The other was to focus around the people in your life, that way the gratitude practice becomes more lively and dynamic.
There is so much written about the physical and mental health benefits of gratitude. But installing a daily practice is tough and like many practices that are good for us such as meditation and mindfulness, it is all about instituting the habit. When I did a meditation course last year, at least half of the course content focussed on developing the habit. A good way to develop a new habit is to hang it onto something that is already a habit, like brushing your teeth for example. I managed to get a daily meditation practice up and going, so now I am trying to hook the gratitude practice onto that habit.
Do you find you only truly appreciate some things when deprived of them?