According to the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network's (SDSN) World Happiness Report 2021, Malaysia ranked 81st in the world out of a total of 149 nations.
In view of this, and in conjunction with United Nation's International Day of Happiness, Heriot-Watt University Malaysia (HWUM) held its annual flagship event, the Global Happiness Forum 2022 on Saturday; 19 March 2022.
Themed ‘The Importance of Laughter', the virtual event was aimed at promoting HWUM's happiness agenda and its wider efforts to promote positive mental health and resilience.
In his welcoming speech, HWUM Provost and Chief Executive Officer Professor Mushtak Al-Atabi, said: “This year is a very special year for HWUM. Ten years ago, when we established the Malaysian campus, we were clear in our goal to not only bring quality UK education closer to youth in Malaysia and the region but also to enable our students at other campuses to experience Asia and Malaysia. This is in the belief that when we experience each other's cultures, we become the positive leaders that the world needs.
“At HWU, we believe that through positive education we can change the world, and create a world that is sustainable, just, and enjoyable. Positive Education is a unique approach to education where we look at not only academic excellence but also at how to support our students build their character, empowering them with the skills and capabilities to succeed in a highly uncertain and complex world. Our role as educators is one of building purpose driven leaders, and happiness is an important part of that. While life takes us through its ups and downs, to remain motivated and be able to bounce back from challenges is a vital skill, which can be developed and nurtured.”
HWUM's 5th Global Happiness Forum garnered the participation of over 400 participants from all around the globe including the United Kingdom, Dubai, Hong Kong, Pakistan, and many more.
The principles of the UK university are rooted deeply in the belief that education and science should be used for the betterment of the wider society. This year's edition featured a line-up of ‘Happy' hosts and speakers including renowned Malaysian comedian Harith Iskander; UK academic and comedian Professor Sophie Scott; as well as Malaysian humanitarian activist and volunteer Kuan Chee Heng, more popularly known as ‘Uncle Kentang'.
During the session, Professor Sophie Scott enlightened participants on the evolutionary roles of laughter, how laughter changes as we age, the role of laughter as a communicative behaviour, and how laughter is useful to regulate stressful situations. Kuan Chee Heng inspired participants to appreciate life and to continue to uplift others through volunteering activities to help those in need or even through small gestures like a smile. Participants were also tickled and entertained by Harith Iskander's unique approach to laughter.
Aside from sharing friendly banter with the audience in his Scottish accent, Harith also had the virtual audience in stiches as he belted out The Eagles' rock classic “Hotel California” on his guitar.
The International Day of Happiness is important to HWUM as it is an opportunity to celebrate the UK University's institutional values: Belong, Inspire, Collaborate, and Celebrate. Based on these values, HWUM's educators and professional staff are successfully building a community that promotes a more positive sense of mental health for all.
HWUM Professor of Positive Psychology, School of Social Sciences, Professor Deborah Hall, said: “Today I received a life-enhancing a dose of Vitamin “L” through our Global Happiness Forum! Heriot-Watt University takes student and staff well-being seriously and this annual event is a great way to give back to everyone who makes our community such a thriving environment to learn.”
In conjunction with International Happiness Day, Professor Hall also reminded participants to live by three important mantras to stay happy: keep calm, stay wise, and be kind.