On 20th May, I attended this AIMA interactive session on happiness. This I attended on behalf of Skyline. The primary speaker of this event was Dr. Rekha Shetty who flew down from Chennai for this session in particular. The session was particularly relevant as stress levels have reached all-time highs in our society leading to reduced happiness levels.

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This event reminds me of the famous action taken up by the monarchy of the tiny country of Bhutan some years ago. The monarch had seen first-hand western civilization and knew the allures of the same. So he took on a different approach altogether by declaring that the Bhutanese people will not ‘fall for that trap’. Thus instead of measuring Bhutan’s worth in terms of GDP, he encouraged the development of an index to measure happiness. In this index, Bhutan finished right on top, even though materially the people were not so well off. This example clearly illustrates the fact that modern materialistic pleasures only tend to heighten anxiety & tension and do not have proportionate linkage to happiness.

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However, in the Indian and the broader Asian case if we see, a lot of stress professionals undertake is not for themselves but for others they care for. In the west, a 20 year old is expected to fend for himself / herself, but in Asia the family takes care of children’s education and they all live together under the same roof for much longer time. In turn the children when they group up have the responsibility of caring for their aged parents as well as their own families. Women in Asia, though the trends are changing, are often expected to work on household chores rather than in offices / factories. This creates further financial pressures on the male earning members. Thus they take up jobs where they can earn as much as possible, even if the stress levels tend to increase. In such an environment, it is not easy for the earning members to take care of work- life balance and work towards their own happiness. The urge to earn more money is not for their own material pleasures, but indeed for the extended family.

The lack of happiness and increased stress have also impacted on several other health issues that have cropped up. It has been suggested that increased obesity levels and whitening of hair are stress related outcomes. The excessive usage of digital devices like smartphones and laptops has not helped either. The lure to click ‘selfies’ of oneself has been linked with greater levels of narcissism or alternately self-doubt. In fact Facebook gives us a window to others’ lives but people only put up positive acts in their profiles. Stress escalates when we see friends, batch mates or cousins posing with good looking specimens of the other gender at exotic foreign locales. 

This is where employers have to act. Organizations must avoid taking advantages of the helplessness that have engulfed a significant percentage of the workforce. This is especially true with migrant workers, both in labour as well as cushier white collared jobs. Also training and development as a field has emerged to cope with all this. Sessions like this and organizations which help in stress relieving are gaining greater prominence as there is an increasing need. 

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