DUBAI: Friday was the International Day of Happiness, a day when it is worth pausing and asking ourselves just how happy we are.
For many of us, that may be a big ask at a time when an invisible virus is holding us to ransom, a parasite threatening to devour us if we as much as touch our own face with our toiling hands, let alone meet friends or go out shopping.
We’ve perhaps never felt more gloomy and vulnerable than now as the novel coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic spreads rapidly across the world. Much to our dismay, people within local communities are avoiding loved ones and favourite hang-outs; beyond borders, parents are leaving children to brave lockdowns by themselves amid global travel restrictions.
Ironically, however, the mantra in the fight against the deadly coronavirus revolves round maintaining a distance.
Staying apart is staying alive
In the last two weeks, the UAE has introduced a raft of measures to ensure people practise what has now become the buzzword: social distancing.
Whether it is the suspension of flights and visas, the introduction of distance learning and working, the closure of shisha cafes and night clubs, the temporary ban on public events, mass prayers and weddings, or even home parties, the underlying reason behind them all is to keep people physically apart.
Social distancing essentially means keeping a physical distance between us and other people. Doctors recommend that this distance should be a minimum of 6 feet if we are to stop coronavirus from spreading.
Surely, that is not such a bad thing. And the easiest way to practise social distancing, we are told, is to stay in the comfort of our own homes.
Now, when was the last time you wished you could stay home and not drag and drive yourself to work? Or put your feet up and catch a good movie? Or cook your favourite dish? Or just get some me-time? The list could go on.
Well, the golden opportunity to do all this and more is here.
As the UAE calls upon us to stay home, it’s time to realign our plans of action. It’s a question of being safe than sorry. Maintaining that social distance is imperative - until we are told otherwise. As workhorses, we can make the most of our time at home. Thanks to technology, we can still see and talk to our loved ones, no matter which part of the world they are in.
There’s a lot we can reflect on. For starters, we can be thankful we are in a country that has been pro-active in its combat against COVID-19.
Just today, it was announced that the UAE has ranked first regionally in the World Happiness Report 2020. Abu Dhabi and Dubai have been rated as the happiest cities in the Arab world. An analysis of responses in the happiness polls indicated that healthy and natural surroundings foster happiness.
The authorities are doing their bit. Their brief to the public is simple: keep your homes clean, wash your hands with soap and water, don’t cough into your hands or on others, practise social distancing.
And above all, don’t worry, be happy.