Clap your hands

“Happiness may have different meanings for different people. But we can all agree that it means working to end conflict, poverty and other unfortunate conditions in which so many of our fellow human beings live.”

By Samineh I. Shaheem (Out of Mind)

Published: Sun 23 Mar 2014, 12:34 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 8:57 PM

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message for the International Day of Happiness, 20 March 2014

For millenniums, humans have been mystified by the purpose of life and have been in pursuit of happiness. Greek philosopher Aristotle talked extensively about this topic and he said that the ultimate purpose of human existence is to achieve happiness. More recently, our modern day lyrical genius Pharrell Williams delivers his message about happiness through a distinctly soulful tune. There’s a refreshing simplicity and childlike innocence about his song ‘Happy’ as he asks millions of listeners worldwide to ‘clap along if you feel like a room without a roof, because I’m happy…’

Almost everyone will, in one way or another, be curious to embark on this quest and although it’s quite a personal and subjective journey, thanks to a small kingdom in the Himalayan, it has become a global issue!

In true fairytale fashion, this story began with a king wanting a better world for his people and those of the rest of the planet. In 1972 the king of Bhutan grew tired of countries being measured just by its gross domestic product, and coined the term Gross National Happiness (GNH). The Bhutanese index is based on factors such as psychological wellbeing, health, education, environment, governance quality and living standards of the general population.

So the good news is that people from all around the world are acknowledging that progress should be about increasing human happiness and wellbeing, not just growing the economy at all costs. It was a true victory when in 2012 all 193 UN member states adopted a resolution calling for happiness to be given a greater priority and March 20 was declared the International Day of Happiness!

The proposal was conceived through ‘the need for a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promoted sustainable development and poverty eradication, and the happiness and well-being of all people.’

March 20th, the International Day of Happiness is a great opportunity for us all to recognize and join in on supporting this worldwide initiative and this year more and more individuals and countries joined in the joyful jubilee. But before we do that, we need to overcome some myths about happiness and talk about what it isn’t.

> Happiness isn’t a permanent state of being.

> We need to feel pain and sadness for happiness to make sense

> Happiness isn’t a destination. There are many emotional experiences along the journey of life and happiness is one of them.

> Happiness doesn’t fade however due to an interesting phenomena known as ‘Hedonic Adaptation,’ we get used to and take for granted positive changes in their lives.

> Negative emotions are as necessary as positive ones.

> Ceaseless optimism or endless positive thinking isn’t going to make us happy – realistic goals and achievements will.

> There is no magic formula. Capturing happiness involves a deep subjective evaluation of your life, desires and dreams.

> Other people can’t make you happy – it needs to begin and grow within you.

Here is a list of things we should do every day to invite happiness into our lives:

> Make sure you stay connected to friends, family and loved ones

> Be active — work, create, dance, sing, take a walk, or play with your children

> Take notice and be aware of your surroundings, emotions and thoughts

> Be curious and keep learning

> Engage in acts of kindness and generosity

> Follow your instinct

> Forgive and let go of anger

> Have deep meaningful conversations with close friends

> Plan new activities and adventures

> Laugh from the bottom of your heart

> Clear your home of clutter and unnecessary items

> Be grateful

Happiness is less about the bigger achievements and more about the simple practices we can introduce into our everyday lives so that our outlook positively begins to affect our thoughts and actions. Science is now taking the initiative to study this topic that used to be reserved for poets, philosophers and romantics so the more research is done exploring the various dimensions of happiness, the closer we get to improved well being. I hope you too will join in by recognizing the relevance of balanced happiness as a part of our universal goals.

Samineh I. Shaheem is an author, learning & development director and owner of Life Clubs UAE. She has studied and lectured in different parts of the world, including the USA, Canada, UK, Netherlands, and now the UAE. She co hosts a radio program on 103.8 FM Dubai Eye (Psyched Sundays, Voices of Diversity 10-12pm) every Sunday morning discussing the most relevant psychological issues in our community. Twitter: @saminehshaheem/Facebook: Life Clubs UAE. Please forward your thoughts and suggestions for future articles to

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