What is the secret to happiness? The 14th Dalai Lama, a man a lot of people believe has the answers to most maladies, recently had this to say. Happiness is not something ready-made, he said. It comes from your own actions. ‘Without showing a warm-hearted concern for others, we can’t be happy.’
How then do nations become happy? The United Nations, which has since 2012 measured the Global Happiness Index among member countries, says all the top countries on its annual happiness index are those with high values for all six key variables that have been found to support well-being: income, healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom, trust and generosity.
The fourth instalment of india today’s annual Good News issue, compiled by Executive Editor Damayanti Datta, features an extraordinarily inspirational group of Good Samaritans. These are individuals who have in their own ways been advancing the six key variables as defined by the UN, supporting well-being and spreading good cheer.
Scientific research has proved that positive news stories about empathetic individuals like them are like tonic. They benefit the consumers of such news mentally, physically and emotionally. What better way to start the year, then, than with a compendium of feel-good stories that celebrate positivity and produce endorphins.
And so we have a group of conscientious government officials who are spreading good cheer in the remotest parts of our country. A bureaucrat who organises marathons to keep people healthy in Bhopal, a forest officer reducing man-elephant conflicts in Kerala, a police officer-physician who organises health camps deep inside Maoist territory and a project officer working on reaching government schemes to Maharashtra’s tribals.
We also have doctors who are going the extra mile to inject optimism, whether it is the Pune-based gynaecologist who is saving the girl child, the doctor from Delhi who knocks on doors to bring awareness of breast cancer or the oncologist from Bengaluru whose prosthetic device has given voice to throat cancer survivors. These are our torchbearers of hope, who have taken the road less travelled to bring happiness in the lives of others. And they are everywhere. From the vocal street theatre artiste in Delhi who has staged over 9,000 street plays on socially relevant themes to the former businessman who gives soldiers a second life to the social worker from Hyderabad who is spreading hygiene awareness in rural India.
Their stories become especially useful because they are pointers to guiding public policy at a time when the overall national picture—at least in the happiness ratings—is, well, a tad gloomy. India’s happiness ratings have been sliding sharply from the time the UN began its index five years ago. From 117 in 2013, we have come down to 133 out of 156 countries surveyed in 2018, the lowest among all SAARC nations, barring war-torn Afghanistan. Since this government is so much into international ratings, it should perhaps consider putting this on their agenda.
Clearly, the pursuit of happiness and well-being of the people is an issue we ought to be spending more time on. This is a worthwhile new year resolution for us to adopt. Wishing you a new year filled with happiness.
January 15, 2018