Last Thursday, three members of the KES debating team, myself included, took part in the ESU Schools’ Mace Debating Competition. Our assigned motion was:
‘This House Believes That government economic policy should prioritise the collective happiness and wellbeing of the population over economic growth.’
In our current times this is undoubtedly a pressing issue. Has our focus on economic growth made us a less happy society? Has it led to our ignorance in climate change, social inequality and wellbeing? And if it does, what should we do about it? Whilst it is impossible to adequately discuss these questions in this short article, it prompted me to think about our happiness.
The pandemic has certainly created a lot of doom and gloom. For many of us, perhaps one of the greatest causes of stress and unhappiness has been the loss of control over our lives. The virus threatened our health, cancelled our plans, altered our tracks, and while we stay at home, the big problems, such as climate crisis or social injustice, are still raging around us, even more fierce than ever.
How do we deal with this? I believe that, instead of worrying about things we can’t control, we need to focus on what we can.
Start from ourselves. Let’s take care of our mind and body and enjoy what we do. From reading books, listening to music or watching movies, to outdoor walking, running or snowball fighting (I, for one, really enjoyed the recent snow), there are so many fun things we can do to add some zest into our life, even during lockdown.
Then, look out for our friends, family and every member of our community. Talk to friends, greet neighbours (from a distance, of course), FaceTime elderly relatives and volunteer our time and energy to help others. Indeed, studies indicate that the very act of giving back to the community boosts our happiness, health and sense of wellbeing.
Last but not least, let’s influence people and spread the good spirit. Reading KES Community each week, I always feel inspired and empowered by the actions of our community members. Although sometimes our individual actions may seem miniscule when compared to the grand scheme of events across the world, we are not as powerless as we might think. Through every individual’s words and actions, we can influence those around us, and before long it will ripple throughout the community, inspiring many others to make a difference. Whilst we may not be able to single handedly solve all the big issues around us, it is the accumulation of our efforts, following our shared values, that leads to positive change. Collectively, we can shape the social, economic and political environment of our society, and foster better opportunity, tolerance of diversity, social mobility, commitment to fairness, and dedication to democracy. Together we can greatly improve our collective happiness and wellbeing.
Abraham Lincoln claimed that “Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.” With a focused and principled mindset, our happiness is in our own hands.