People have looked up to Leaders since times immemorial – on those that promised growth, harmony and happiness. The philosophical pursuit of happiness is documented in early history from 2500 years ago led by Buddha, LaoTse, Aristotle and many others.
In the 18th century the American Declaration of Independence enshrined the unalienable rights to their people that included “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
What does happiness mean for individuals, societies and nations? How can Leaders strive to ensure a ‘right for happiness’? And why is that even necessary?
Individuals inherently yearn for happiness. Research has shown that people when happy are better engaged at their work, drive better productivity and economic development and generally live longer.
"Success is not the key to happiness, happiness is the key to success." Herman Cain
Well-meaning global leaders are concerned with balancing the gains from growth driven by globalization with the happiness of its constituents. This trend was evident from discussion threads at the World Economic Forum in Jan’17 at Davos.
This time around global heads of Governments have reconvened in Dubai at the World Government Summit of Feb’17. The summit is a gathering of world leading Disruptors, Thinkers, Pioneers and Leaders to influence and guide governments in the service of citizens and dedicated to shaping future governments.
Dubai is at the forefront of hosting key policy shaping events and displays its unique people focused actions in the region – in that the progressive Leadership of the UAE set up a Ministry of Happiness to ensure the wellbeing of citizens and protect its future. This has no parallel in the region and shows the far-sighted vision of the benevolent leadership in the country.
According to the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, HH Sheikh Mohammed “The role of government is to create an environment in which people can achieve their dreams and ambitions, not to create an environment that government can control. Government, in short, should nurture an environment in which people create and enjoy their own happiness.”
The UN is calling for changes in the criteria used to measure governmental success from lagging edge economic indicators to leading edge measures related to human happiness and wellbeing. It has dedicated a UN World Day for Happiness i.e. 20 Mar, to emphasize the importance of this shift.
According to His Highness Sheikh Mohammed, focusing on happiness is both feasible and justified. Happiness can be measured, and its measurement is seen in implementation across the Happiness meters installed at various government departments. The UAE leadership is at the leading edge of creating a global platform to build and develop happiness into the policy framework for global development.
In the context of many studies conducted by the United Nations – it is found that Depression can affect anyone and it is one of the most widespread illnesses. According to the World Health Organization, depressive disorders were ranked as the third in the global burden of disease (2004) and will move into the first place by 2030. It is in this context that the wise leadership of the UAE, focusses to champion happiness for its people.
Another country worth mentioning in the Happiness policy implementation is Bhutan. Their Prime Minister spoke at the WGS’17 on their incessant quest to making happiness a prime directive in government policy through the last four decades. Bhutan is the leading country globally that measures “Gross National Happiness” as a tool that measures people’s quality of life, and makes sure that “material and spiritual development happen together.”
"Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony." Gandhi
Prodded on by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), world governments are listening and moving to incorporate leading edge indicators to incorporate and measure well-being of citizens.
While governments rely on making frameworks to measure, implement and boost well-being along with growth goals for the nation – many learning institutions and private entities have focused into scientific studies on Positive Psychology with a view to understand what makes happy people happy. The results from these studies also indicate that specific behaviors favorably impact the sense of well-being. These break- through's are then being brought into the implementation sphere through various practice of clinical psychologists, Counselors and Life Coaches.
While Leaders in the public and institutional space do their bit to balance in the happiness objective - what can you as individuals of society do to participate in this enterprise?
Depression affects many around us, in myriad ways and make routine chores extremely difficult. Here are some effective practices that one can deploy to keep good mental health and also support those few around us undergoing a depressive state:
1. Exercise daily for keeping your physical and mental health in good order
2. Practice mindful breathing techniques for 10 minutes a day and supplement with meditative exercises to help ease stress and depression
3. Get your daily dose of early morning sunlight to energize your system
4. Nourish the body daily with a healthy balanced diet
5. Develop healthy and routine sleep habits
6. Candid communication with family members and loved ones will help lighten up and release stress
7. Organizing and planning your schedule brings predictability into life and works to reduce stress.
In the digital economy where current jobs are transforming rapidly, it is comforting to know that the UN General Assembly is prodding governments to work on World Happiness through recognition of ‘happiness and well-being as universal goals and aspirations in the lives of human beings around the world.’