On this World Happiness Day, it is only in the fitness of the thing that the secret to the most precious treasure called ‘happiness’ is opened up for everyone irrespective of who they are, where they come from and more importantly wherever on the earth they live. On the other side of the coin, the pandemic has done exactly the opposite for everyone, distributed miseries all across. However, the receding pandemic has also left behind a few underlying lessons, if counted on, can enhance happiness in our life forever.
Lord Buddha tells many stories when asked about happiness. Once a thief hid one diamond under the rug of a beggar in the night. The thief was caught and never returned to get the diamond back. However, the beggar was unaware of the diamond and spent his whole life begging. He never picked the rug or cleaned the place. When he died and his body was cremated, people picked up the rug to clean the place and found the diamond. Only if the beggar looked around himself, got up, and checked the rug, he would have been richer and maybe happier.
The pandemic has been like the jolt which made us stand up and take note of our surroundings. We have always had the diamond with us. The pandemic made us be aware of it. The world has changed entirely in the last two years. The new normal of today is very different from the life we used to live in the pre-pandemic times. Work-from-home, home-schooling, social distancing, lockdown, quarantine, etc. are some words and concepts which were unheard of in the pre-pandemic time. These changes in our lifestyle have made us aware of the rat race the capitalist economy has made us participate in. The pandemic has reminded us that we do not need that much to be happy. Following are the four-key lessons we learned as human beings from the pandemic experience and if counted on, can enhance happiness in our life forever.
- Follow your passion: Most businesses across sectors took a hit during the first wave of the pandemic and had to cut the salaries of their employees. Initially, people, families, individuals fumed and worried about their expenses and EMIs. But with the passage of time, people adjusted to these salary cuts. They restructured and/or reduced their expenses and started to live within their means. People got a sense of freedom from the rat race of earning more and spending more. When people realized that they do not need that much to live a happy life, they also realized that they can earn that much by following their passion and working on their own terms instead of being corporate slaves. People prefer now to freelance and become gig workers instead of doing a 9 am to 9 pm job. The increase in the resignation rate is an indication of this changed behavior. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that around 4 million Americans resigned from their jobs in 2021.
- Exploring home as a tourist: In the pre-pandemic time, a lot of people, especially, youngsters were using their home as a place to spend nights, that too, only 4 – 5 nights in a week. Early morning rush and late-night parties after work made the home space a place to spend resting hours. People had this urge to ‘go out’ and spend huge time and money on things which are readily available at home. People would readily spend 5X money and wait in queue for a very long time for the same food which they can cook at home. The pandemic-related lockdowns made people stay at home and explore living and cooking at home. People realized that home can be the best destination to explore and live. Home-cooking is the newfound love people explored during the lockdowns. This not only relaxed people’s minds but also put a lot less stress on their pockets.
- Family, the new friends: Like home space, family members are also treated like strangers in an airport lounge in the pre-pandemic lifestyle. Most families did not eat one meal together in months. Someone always had an engagement. Extended work hours, office parties, outings with friends, etc. something always messed up the family get-together plans. And even when, in the rare chance, the family is together for a dinner, it is always at a restaurant, surrounded by strangers. The pandemic forced families to spend time together at home, cooking, eating, playing, and exploring each other. The board games like Ludo, carom, etc. have been reintroduced in the families. People realized that they do not have to go out always and spend a lot of time and money with friends to have fun and be happy.
- Learning leads to happiness: The YouTube tutorials and online learning systems were always there but we never pay heed to it. During the lockdowns, we realized that learning is not bound with time, space, or even domain. People who have never been inside a kitchen became home chefs, and people who had never touched a guitar started uploading videos of their musical journey. The pandemic created a free-time in people’s schedules and several people used it to learn something new. The learning experience brought tons of happiness to people’s lives.
The final and most important lesson we are learning right now in 2022 is that the entire world is interconnected. We are truly realizing now what we have read in our ancient scriptures that the entire world is one large family ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’. Lord Buddha also says that ‘by protecting oneself one protects others; by protecting others one protects oneself’. The new variant Omricron spread within 36 days in all major countries of the world. The world is realizing that we cannot just vaccinate the rich countries and defeat this virus. Today, for each first dose of vaccine in poor countries, 6 booster doses are being given in the first world countries. WHO and other organizations have said that partisan behavior like this will not lead to the eradication of this virus. WHO reports that almost 120 crore used doses are getting expired in developed countries and poor countries are unable to procure vaccines for their citizens. Now is high time that we realize that each one of us is interconnected and interdependent on each other for health and happiness.
*This piece of work is jointly prepared by Dr Daneshwar Sharma (Associate Professor of Business Communication at Jaipuria Institute of Management) and Dr Prabhat Pankaj