Work Different Session #1- Decoding Happiness

In February, BAC introduced (BACEG) Professional Development, an initiative aimed to develop a community which enables staff to continuously upskill, reskill and to share the best practices of growth and development amongst themselves. In line with this, the Work Different platform was launched on 16th June, as BAC Education’s latest engagement and experience platform. For its first session, a webinar was held on June 25. Its title? Decoding Happiness.

The talk was moderated by Mr. Kumar who began by welcoming participants to the webinar. Following this was an elaboration of how to utilise the HRD Academy LMS by Ms. Jasbirizla, then a few words by Mr. Rajan who thanked participants for their involvement and wished the group a pleasant time. Mr. Kumar and Ms. Khalidah then directed the focus to the evening’s speaker- Dr. Pam Guneratnam.

Dr. Pam is a trained psychologist, and the founder of HumanKind – a Malaysian social impact organisation which aims to engage and empower communities in improving emotional and mental well-being, with over 25 years of experience under her belt. She is also a 2020 acumen fellow and 2010 Distinguished Alumnus from Richmond University. Dr. Pam introduced herself to the group, set the agenda, and kicked off the session.

The webinar began with a breakout session, with participants divided into groups of 5 or 6 to discuss a poem by Rumi; The Guest House. A discussion prompt was provided- namely that Rumi equated being human to being a guest house in the poem. Dr. Pam asked the participants to discuss this- and to consider whether they agreed or disagreed with the poem. Once ensconced in their respective breakout rooms, participants had 10 minutes to discuss their views with their respective breakout room members. Following this session, numerous groups agreed with the interpretation of emotions as visitors at a guest house, with some remarking that the unpredictability of visitors to a guest house mimicked the uncertainty of one’s emotional range on any given day.

Dr. Pam then moved the discussion to the topic of emotions and how they impacted our mental health. Referring to the issue of multiple MCOs as well the need to work from home to ensure compliance to SOPs, Dr. Pam highlighted how common feelings such as anxiety, fatigue and isolation were among us, especially in times of fear or stress. She also shared how psychologist, having researched the field intensively, have concluded that happiness and other feelings, are considered amoral. They are neither good or bad, they are transitory in how they move and shift, and are not always rational, or something that we can control.

Dr. Pam proceeded to explain how one could ‘invite’ happiness- in other words, steps one could take to promote a positive sense of well-being. Establishing a general definition of happiness as being the experience of positive emotions combined with the feeling that life is good (while acknowledging that it could be different for different people), Dr. Pam provided research which revealed a percentage of factors which determined happiness as consisting of biology/genetics (50%), life circumstances (40%) and intentional activity (10%). While we have no control over the area of genetics, Dr. Pam was quick to highlight that 40% of what makes us happy was in fact entirely our choice- we can choose to feel sad over a situation, or we can choose to count our blessings. In this vein, she also highlighted some emotions to ‘invest’ in to promote happiness; gratitude, kindness, and connection. Dr. Pam highlighted just how important these factors were in taking stock of one’s emotions and day to day experiences.

Quoting her directly on the topic of gratitude:

“The things in your life, the people in your life, the opportunities in your life are a gift, not something that you necessarily earned, entitled to in some way, should or that you should have. But if you are able to recognize those things as a gift, and a blessing, and you respond to those good, the goodness in your life with a sense of gratitude that is one of the ways that you can become happy.”

Dr. Pam also emphasised the importance of kindness and its ripple effect- how a simple act of kindness could echo throughout the people we know and through the people they know, and so forth. On the topic of connection, Dr. Pam highlighted the importance of knowing that there are people whom you loved and cared for and trusted, and people who felt the same about you- a key component in avoiding isolation and sadness. Humans, Dr.Pam remarked, were more predisposed to think of the negative rather than the positive- but by paying conscious attention to our thoughts and actions, we could figure out what we needed to feel happy instead.

Some practices she mentioned to achieve happiness included:

  • Using attention positively
  • Scheduling social connections (whether or not you felt like it)
  • Practicing random acts of kindness
  • Learning from our saboteurs (be they emotional or physical presences) and developing preventative strategies

Following this, Dr. Pam wrapped up the webinar with a Q&A session for the attendees. Most attendees expressed their gratitude and enjoyment of the session, thanking Dr. Pam for taking the time to speak to them, and to the organisers for their efforts as well.

And with that, Round 1 of BAC Education’s Work Different initiative came to its conclusion.