MARCH 20 — Wait! Happiness during a health disaster?

For most of us (if not all), we are mentally and physically preoccupied with Covid-19. The fear is real.

We worry about how long this crisis will last, and how it will impact our work (i.e. finances), our studies (i.e. our future), our daily life, for example food and necessities (i.e. our security), our country/world (i.e. our humanity), and obviously our health (i.e. our safety).

If you are already confined at home or hospital, the risk for psychological distress increases.

Longer the confinement, smaller the space, and lower the contact with positive resources, the higher the risks for stress, distress and depression.

Ironic as it may sound, one key reason for the United Nations International Day of Happiness celebrated on March 20 is — suffering.

Suffering of humanity and our planet. Studies have shown that when our thinking is channelled positively, it is easier for us to stay resilient even in adversity.

Happiness does not need to come naturally for people. It can be learned, and it can be applied in our behaviour.

Human happiness has three key characteristics that map onto our thinking, feeling, and doing.

As a practising psychologist, this to me is important — I need to be aware of how I am thinking, how I am feeling, and what I am doing.

And so too for all of us. This is especially important when people need our help and support. Why? Because, it is in these three key areas that we can help them too.

Covid-19 has exposed our vulnerability as a human species. Medically, socially, politically (and some may say religiously), we were not prepared for this large-scale global disaster.

If ever we thought of such a scale of an attack, we would have expected it to come from terrorists, nuclear war, or aliens from another planet. Not from a tiny bug that cannot be seen.

But there is something we can do about it that renders us far from being helpless: Our minds.

While the virus can disrupt our body’s functioning as well as our socially functioning, it cannot take away the choices we make in how we can face up to it.

Yes, we can lie down and give up, and wait for the virus to attack OR, we can choose to pre-empt the attack in a way that builds our resilience. And here is where learning and behaviour takes place.

Happiness is not about laughing, though laughing can be one sign of happiness.

Happiness is not about feeling good, though it can sometimes manifest itself in good feelings.

Happiness is the power we give a situation, even when we feel bad about it. We do have a choice. So, if we had to choose one defining word to describe happiness, it would be “choice.”

If you are sitting at home anxious — for whatever reasons you have — you can choose to combat this anxiety and the virus with a dose of happiness.

Once you choose to be happy, no matter the situation, you have given yourself power and permission to take action steps towards this happiness.

  • If you have children at home, your choice of happiness may determine that you choose to create memorable moments with them, even if their energy can drive you up the wall. (I have a very active kid, so I can empathise).
  • If you are out of work, your choice of happiness may determine that you choose to take free courses online to upgrade your skills that help make you feel better about yourself.
  • If you are sick or depressed, your choice of happiness may determine that you choose to create a support group through reaching out via online resources.

These ideas may not sound as big as the UN’s 10-steps to Global Happiness, but they are equally important.

They are important because you are important. You and your happiness matters!

Each individual’s happiness contributes to community happiness, which contributes to a nation’s happiness, which contributes to global happiness. Happiness is not just a shared human experience, but also a fundamental human right.

A lockdown cannot stop you from thinking out-of-the-box on ways you can choose to be happy. Best yet, your choices and actions can be shared with others, and this can empower others to take the steps towards happiness.

We have started this process, and we invite you to join us to help the global community create and celebrate happiness beyond the International Day.

Share your ideas and actions of happiness with us at

Or go to:

Share and hashtag your happiness using #viralhappiness2020.

Your viral actions will help us bring our country and global community together in a shared experience of happiness. Fight Covid-19. Happy International Day of Happiness.

* Brendan J. Gomez is a consulting psychologist and US Fulbrighter. He can be reached at [email protected].

** This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.