Singaporean! Y U No Happy?


This article has been contributed by Andy Tay:


Heard the song, “Happy” by Pharrell Williams?

It was a small, unknown soundtrack in the animation Despicable Me 2. Now its been meme-ed to death; Amsterdam, Paris, Tokyo….and of late, even us Singaporeans have our own version!

We all live in the pursuit of happiness… so, question: do you think Singaporeans are happy?

The big, white underbelly of the internet will tell you no. Foreign workers, rising costs, HDB, traffic jams, SMRT breakdowns etc. Let’s take the internet with a pinch of salt. We know this is a medium where those who shout the loudest, and most often wins….and the unhappy does have a mission to be heard.

In global indexes around the world, the Happy Planet Index ranked Singapore 90th out of 151, whilst in Dec 2012, a Gallup report showed that Singapore’s wealthy population is the unhappiest globally;— less happy than the populations of Iraq, Haiti, Afghanistan, and Syria.

I found it difficult to comprehend those results and even more confounding to go explore all the factors around happiness.

What is happiness to one person might be really quite different from another. Furthermore, we constantly evolve through the years. While we are young and “innocent”, happiness might mean getting that dream job and earning that salary which buys our “toys”. But when we are a little more matured, happiness could simply be spending time with a loved one, uninterrupted and fully engaged.

In many cities, happiness always seems to be linked to an external reason or source that needs to be “purchased” or have some monetary transaction for.

I think to debate on whether or not we’re happy is off the point. Why don’t we just do something to make us feel better? Try these:

Show an attitude of gratitude

Its easy to moan and groan about everything. Too easy. As long as things don’t go the way what we want, we complain. Complaining never solved a problem, especially if we were unable to influence the problem directly. In fact, rather than solving anything, we trap ourselves in a victim’s mentality and set forth a vicious cycle depressing us further.

Instead of counting your misfortunes, how about shifting attention to the blessings we receive every day? The lights were green in our favour! There’s non-hazy air to breathe! Wow, got a seat on the MRT! I feel good about returning my tray at the food court!

It will only cost you a smile and and eye to see the good things in life.


Find fulfilment at work, life or play

Sure, no one really likes working long hours, dealing with demanding bosses, customers and colleagues and  stress. Domestic problems could be complicated and arguments aplenty. See with an open mind, within unhappiness there are beautiful moments and celebrations which we cherish and hold dearly.

Shift our attention to those moments whenever the mood barometer drops. Remember, nothing is permanent, not even our unhappiness!


Stop comparing your wealth, status and luck

Have you this: “Comparison is the death of joy” (Mark Twain) or this? “Comparison is the thief of joy” (Theodore Roosevelt)

In a fast paced society where we are constantly keeping with the Joneses, can there be real joy? We get ourselves jealous, we moan when our neighbours/friends acquire their dream car, house, partner etc, we find ways to one up them. All this is very tiring business.

Competitiveness is human, so is jealousy. It takes a fair bit of “getting over yourself” to feel joy for your friends and neighbours. Yet when you are able to practice it – there is a zen like peace you’ll experience. (Plus think of the amount of money you’ll save NOT buying the superfluous things that no one really cares about anyway)


Get your body moving and grooving


Motion, creates Emotion! The positive kind of course. A walk, a jog, a swim, tennis with a friend, frisbee with the dog…the more we work out, the more our brain excretes endorphins (which reduce stress and pain). Do you realise you’ll feel happier after a jog? Your mood changes and suddenly everything is a possibility? Yes. That’s endorphin at work.


Contribute to the Happiness Of Others

Know someone who is down, lonely or simply needs a listening ear? Go spend time with them. Cheer them up and you’ll in turn be cheered up too. Whatever goes around, certainly comes around.

If you like, you could also go volunteer at events/institutions which constantly need people. Children, Elderly, Disabled, the community. Or take part in the spirit of activism: save the earth, eat less meat or champion workers welfare by joining a trade union in your company!


Hang around happy people

Ever heard of the saying that “Misery loves company”? Either way, misery or happiness is contagious. What kind of people are you usually hanging around? The more you complain, the more everyone gets miserable together! Go out and seek those who inspire, make you laugh and puts you in the feel-good-mood!


Smile & laugh often even if for no reason

Yes, go ahead and laugh at cheesy joke ….who cares really? Laughing allows us to inhale more oxygen, release more dopamine (which reinforces pleasure-seeking behavior and influences our happiness) and even exercises our abs a bit more. Where to get laughs? Well, there’s always the Stand Up Comedy scene here or go for a laughter yoga class! No one will think you are crazy if you laugh non-stop there, lol.


Meditate on it

In Silicon Valley, its become so pervasive and even companies like Google regularly conduct meditation classes in the office and encourage their staff to develop a regular practice. Meditation assists in focus, releasing stress, anxiety and many other benefits, for body, mind and spirit.

There are tons of resources online and meditation courses in Singapore. If you are interested, you can start with the basic breath meditation and see what works best for you.

More importantly, start building this practice into your daily life. Just like having “An Attitude of Gratitude”, its best to practice just after awakening or before sleeping.


Get Enough Sleep!


Take it from Garfield, it works. Yes, having enough sleep is essential for a well rested body and mind. Ever noticed how grumpy people are throughout the day if they did not get enough sleep? Clock in 6, 7, or 8 hours (but no more!) – and joy will return to your life!







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