5.2 Well-being, Happiness, Morale and Spirituality
The modern world is richer than it has been at any time in its history. Yet income inequality is at unacceptable levels. Everyone in the world is affected by the unceasingly draining world’s natural resources for profit maximisation accelerating industrialised corruption and the resultant destruction of our planet including its environment. This creates strains and stresses on us as individuals, as families and as a society.
Our health depends on material, social, cultural and spiritual sources. As physical beings, our material needs are for nutritious food, clean air and water, adequate shelter, physical activity and sleep etc. As social beings we need families, friends and communities to be associated with to flourish. As cultural beings, we require cultures to make our lives worthwhile. As spiritual beings, we are subconsciously connected to the rest of the world, thus providing meaning to our lives. Well-being emanates from being connected and engaged in such a web of relationships and interests.
In 2011, the United Nations called on its member states to undertake steps that give more importance to happiness and well-being. Bhutan sponsored this resolution. It was adopted without a vote. Bhutan has been using Gross National Happiness (GNH) rather than gross domestic product (GDP) as an indicator of human success. The resolution also noted that the GDP “was not designed to and does not adequately reflect the happiness and well-being of people in a country,” and “unsustainable patterns of production and consumption can impede sustainable development.”
We recognise the well-known fact that well-being contributes to health and health contributes to well-being and that well-being is a composite of various objective and subjective elements. We will therefore establish a National Well-being Development Authority (NWDA). Its tasks will include, conducting an appropriate technical study by specialists in the field to select an approach to determine an appropriate composite that can be used to measure national well-being and happiness, what indicators can be used for its measurement and practically how the required data can be collected. This will be a technically complex and politically sensitive process.
Happiness should signify the fullness of life one enjoys, personal development as a human being and meaningfulness of one’s existence. So, material development is complemented with developments in community, culture, relationships, spirituality, psychological well-being and harmony with the environment. Happiness of a person comprises of both subjective and objective elements. One component would be psychological well-being, which is constituted by good health, education, living standards, environmental diversity, resilience, good governance, cultural diversity, community and leisure time.
If a population is over stressed due to cost of living pressures, instability, human rights violations, trauma, death, destruction and war and intense longing for peace its morale would decrease. The number of suicides in a society also indicates the stress levels it is being subjected to. The causes for this could be mental health issues, addictions, relationship issues and the social stigma attached to certain incidents etc. Low morale may also accelerate the number of people leaving the country searching for better opportunities for them and their families. Thus, managing morale is challenged by the level of societal and individual stress a population has to endure as a whole. To keep improving the morale, peoples’ participation, interaction, consultation and communication will be extremely significant and these need to be incorporated into the policies and procedures of the government.
Spirituality is a broad concept regarded as an internal process concerned with finding a sense of meaning and purpose of life. It is about connection/relationship with the self, with others, with environment and with some higher power beyond the self, people believe in. Spirituality may affect the way people understand and give consideration to health, illness, diagnoses, recovery and loss. Therefore, for health and health care policy considerations, it is vital to find out how a population is spiritual/religious.
Furthermore, health and healthcare systems are increasingly moving towards holistic, patient centered approaches which embrace a bio-psychosocial model of care that emphasises on collaboration and effective communication. In order to help people, sensitivity to cultural diversity and practices is important. Thus, we need to be particularly sensitive to the diverse ways they experience and express their spirituality.
For Sri Lanka, one of the challenges would be the manner in which we can develop policy options to promote wellbeing by integrating the wellbeing focus into government policies in a systematic manner. The other challenge would be the quantification of the incremental well being achieved. By means of an appropriate study, we will work towards identifying the spheres which will have the most potential for public policy to influence wellbeing. In those spheres, we can link the better understanding of wellbeing with appropriate policies to promote it. In doing so, we will take a more sophisticated view of future-readiness and the policies that are needed to promote resilience by reinforcing strengths and remedying vulnerabilities.
We believe that wellbeing correlates fairly closely with particular forms of government and the outcomes of particular government policies. Happiness is not an end in itself. Yet, it is a resultant of realising other relevant social and economic goals. We believe that public policies can and do influence the overall distribution of wellbeing of the population making most people upwardly mobile.
In practical terms, increasing the wellbeing of population can be initiated by incorporating appropriate policies in school education, thus preparing young people for the full demands of life, taking into consideration the patient experience and wellbeing in health policy formulation, implementing policies that would encourage better interaction among neighbours in a community etc.