Updated: March 20, 2021 8:54:13 am
On March 20, the International Day of Happiness is being celebrated the world over. On the same day last year, the COVID-19 pandemic was looming large at the door, and humanity as a whole was uncertain about the course the virus would take. Now, this once-in-a-century pandemic seems to be past its worst, but the tragic experience has shaken us. As humanity faces the global crisis together, this year’s International Day of Happiness is a chance to find uplifting and positive ways to look after ourselves — and one another. This year’s theme — “Keep Calm. Stay Wise. Be Kind” — aptly marks the special significance for all of us to learn, unlearn and re-learn the means to achieve happiness.
The world is facing unprecedented challenges, be it the pandemic, climate change or terrorism. Humanity’s well-being matters now more than ever. There is a need for a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes sustainable development, poverty eradication and happiness. During the 66th session of the General Assembly of United Nations resolution 66/281 of July 12, 2012, proclaimed March 20 as International Day of Happiness, recognising the relevance of happiness and well-being as universal goals and aspirations in the lives of all human beings. The first International Day of Happiness was held on March 20, 2013.
The UN’s Happiness Index ranks countries based on indicators such as generosity, perceptions of corruption, GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy at birth, freedom to make life choices. All of us should be concerned about India’s performance, despite our possessing a massive repository of values and culture that promote and propagate happiness for all creatures through internal reflection. This dichotomy urgently calls for a serious recalibration of our thoughts and actions for the social and global good. It should be noted that global good is not achieved through a top-down approach. It requires a bottom-up approach, with roots in the inner-core of an individual. Realising happiness at the individual level will make a person better. This will lead to a happy family, a happy society, and its fragrance will transcend national boundaries to build a more just world by reducing inequalities.
Indian epics and texts have numerous teachings contextualising happiness. The 36th verse of the 18th Chapter of the Bhagwat Gita says there are three types of happiness — satvic, rajasic and tamasic. The most cherished is “satvic”, which when practised with “awareness” will also liberate one from sorrow. Similarly, a famous Sanskrit shloka says: “If the mind is happy, the entire world (seems) happy. If the mind is despondent, the entire world (seems) despondent. Hence, if you desire happiness, strive towards the happiness of the mind first.”
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Happiness is a purely internal and intangible feeling but its vibes radiate outwardly and collectively enable everyone’s welfare. In our daily life, anything we are good at becomes a source of happiness. It is scientifically proven that happiness can be hacked through positive connections and experiences that create a chemical reaction in human brains through hormones.
Governments, NGOs, industry, social organisations, and administrative machinery directly or indirectly influence the variables of individuals and collective happiness. The measures taken by the Indian government for easing the lives of citizens, uplift of the downtrodden, better infrastructure, increasing employment opportunities are directly improving the happiness of citizens. On another side, the Fit-India campaign, Khelo India, Prime Minister’s Pariksha Pe Charcha, etc., are awareness-generating measures for a less stressful and more healthy life for citizens.
Educational institutes are incorporating measures to promote the science and practice of positivity for fostering a meaningful life, happiness, well-being, and holistic self-development by bringing together various related disciplines ranging from psychology, cognitive sciences, neurosciences, management, educational technology, signal processing, and measurement. They are also offering courses, training programmes and student and community-related activities.
In the technologically-connected world, consumerism, market forces and resultant attachment to material goods create a parallel, superficial and short-lived happiness. We should all learn to seek happiness by limiting our desires rather than attempting to satisfy them. This minimalist approach over the consumerist approach will aid the sustainability of the planet for future generations. Rather than buying material goods, we must prioritise buying good experiences. It will help take society out from the menace of depression, suicides, human trafficking, and other ill-willed tendencies.
In conclusion, happiness per se is subjective — every individual has different parameters for his/her happiness — but it needs to be visualised objectively to create happiness through thoughts and actions in the individualist sphere. The interconnections of these individual spheres will lead to building a more just and harmonious society. On this occasion, let’s pledge to internalise the notion that no one ever comes to us without leaving as a better and happier person, and our collective wisdom gives us the strength to work together.
This column first appeared in the print edition on March 20, 2021 under the title ‘For happier world, look within’. The writer is Union Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs, Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises and Member of Parliament, Bikaner.
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