Dubai: When the UAE turns 45 this Friday, customary greetings of a “happy anniversary” can be taken quite literally. It’s been nine months since the National Programme for Happiness and Positivity was launched, and the country is already topping happiness charts. It has ranked first in the region in the World Happiness Report 2016 and data released by LinkedIn last month also shows that the UAE is the happiest place to live and work in the region.
As Dubai strives to become the happiest city globally, government departments and other organisations have gone into overdrive to take the happiness programme forward. Whether it is the launch of Dubai Health Authority’s “Happiness Hour” for employees, social media initiatives like Dubai Municipality’s #HappyDubai or Emirate’s Islamic’s “Bring Happiness” campaign or more recent events like Dubai Outlet Mall’s “Happiness With No Boundaries” art festival – there is a conscious effort everywhere to focus on the theme of happiness and positivity.
But what is happiness? Can it be created, cultivated and measured?
Priya Cima, wellness expert and co-creator of the wellness platform www.mymedini.com, said, “Happiness can be described as a state of being, a disposition a person believes in and lives accordingly. Well-being is often seen as a broader term, dependent on a number of values and principles of living, including happiness. It covers the state of the body, mind and the environment of the individual.”
Far from being an elusive sound byte, happiness, she explained, is achievable. “Martin Seligman, a positive psychology expert, developed a well-established formula for happiness: H=S+C+V, where H stands for happiness, S for set conditions such as genetics, C for external circumstances such as geography and financial status and V for voluntary actions that an individual takes. He allocated values to each and stated that S has a 50 per cent influence on happiness, C 10 per cent and V 40 per cent.”
The government’s happiness initiatives also work on a formula. In September, Ohood Bint Khalfan Al Roumi, the specially appointed Minister of State for Happiness, announced the “Customer Happiness Formula” as a tool for government employees to accomplish the happiness objectives.
The formula has three components and depends not only on how dedicated government entities are to making customers happy and how government employees take pride in their service, but also the positive, proactive feedback that customers are willing to provide to help achieve the goal.
As the minister stated at a workshop, “The formula is a comprehensive initiative to develop government services and build effective partnerships between employees and customers by scientifically measuring the level of customer happiness.”
Smart Dubai’s launch of the “Happiness Meter” has made Dubai the world’s first city to measure its people’s happiness. The meter is a live sentiment capture engine where customers rate a service or experience as satisfied, neutral or dissatisfied. Through a centralised data dashboard, it helps create a map of happiness across the city. Eighty-nine per cent of the public have been found to be satisfied with government services in Dubai, according to the meter which polled over two million customers at 28 government departments. Launched in the private sector as well, the meter is integrated into existing feedback collections, or serves as a standalone unit in physical locations or on websites.
But can the provision of the best of facilities and public services guarantee happiness for people at a personal level?
Cima said, “Happiness is influenced by how individuals live, the voluntary actions they take to make right choices. Research shows in ensuring healthy lifestyles, through diet, exercise, right amount of sleep, through achieving equanimity, learning to de-stress and having positive relationships, individuals can influence their predisposition to genetic conditions and circumstances.”
As an example, she said, “Someone who is predisposed to diabetes can influence its onset by taking necessary steps from early on to be careful as to what they eat and make sure they exercise regular. Similarly, certain circumstances, such as education and financial status can be influenced by taking appropriate action and positive thinking. This allows the individual to raise the levels of happiness through increasing the values of S and C, using V, as per Seligman’s formula.”
Even in more extreme cases where individuals go through trauma, say an accident or a death in the family, research suggests that they can return to a level of happiness similar as before by learning, with guidance, how to maintain their physical and emotional equilibrium and using techniques to maintain positive relationships. “Individuals may not be able to change the circumstance, but what they eat, how they sleep, the relationships they have and their own emotional and mental states can influence their level of happiness.”
WISH LIST FOR DUBAI:
XPRESS spoke to people from different segments of society to find out if they had any ideas that could make people happier in Dubai. Here’s what they had to say:
Chairman, ITL Cosmos
“Just as people of some nationalities are given visas on arrival, longer duration visas can be considered for long-time residents. Having said so, I acknowledge the UAE has not taken such a step as it must have its reasons. I have been in Dubai since 1959 and have had no inconvenience in getting the short-duration visa extended.”
Director, SNF Development Center
“It would be great if Dubai introduces a self-sufficient complex for the special needs community where families can live and their special needs children move around independently and safely. It should have all self-sustaining facilities like a school, supermarket, salon etc.”
DR AZAD MOOPEN
Chairman, Aster DM Healthcare
“I understand that the UAE authorities are in the process of issuing regulations for Telemedicine and hope that healthcare@home will soon become a reality, bringing happiness to the faces of a large number of people.”
“The government has introduced a number of measures to streamline social work. It would be good to introduce a mechanism to bridge the gap between those who need help and those who can help. This will enable people to be transparent and come forward to seek timely help and guidance.”
“I live in Sharjah and attend college in Dubai. My up-and-down commute by road everyday takes around four-five hours. How I wish there was a Metro connection between Dubai
MD, WAM Middle East FZCO
“I can’t think of any place where I would be happier than in Dubai. I have been in this city for 21 years and can only wish newer expats coming in are more thankful and respectful of the country and all that it offers.”