Blowing Water

Hongkongers still seem to be a miserable lot, despite their blessings

People are so consumed by living such a hectic life, happiness has gone out the window

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 December, 2017, 5:25pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 December, 2017, 3:11am

It’s that time of the year when most people will have set their New Year’s resolutions to help close the year on a high and hopefully kick off 2018 with a fresh start.

However, over the years I have learned that it is not only unrealistic but also discouraging to set resolutions. More often than not, I get halfway through the year and feel totally disheartened for not even being a millimetre closer to achieving my goals. So I have created my own benchmark, which is “to do more of the things that make me happy and less, or none if possible, of the others that don’t”.

As a result, I have become quite successful in fulfilling my “resolutions” for many consecutive years.

Obviously, being happy is important to everyone, with or without New Year’s resolutions in mind. But, to be honest, how many of us end up fulfilling our resolutions?

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I read an article some years ago which claimed the average time we felt happy per day was about 10 minutes. If you think that is pathetically low, wait until you hear an even more dismal figure from a 2010 study published in the Journal of Social Sciences in the US: 13 non-consecutive seconds per day.

The breakdowns showed that most of the happy moments, or seconds, were recorded after a good meal (1.9 seconds) and during blissful activities in the bedroom (2.5 seconds).

Of course, this study was centred on the happiness levels of people in the US, but Hongkongers do not appear to be any more chipper.

A recent survey by charity group Baptist Oi Kwan Social Service found that one in seven primary students showed signs of depression, while one in 10 suffered from severe depression and required some form of clinical treatment.

In the latest World Happiness Report published by the United Nations, our city landed in 71st place, a slight improvement from 75th in 2016.

What do we have to be unhappy about though? We are one of the wealthiest cities in the world with GDP per capita at US$54,279. Hongkongers enjoy the highest life expectancy globally with men expected to live for 81.32 years and women 87.34. Despite these positive indicators, we still seem to be miserable.

To top it off, we recently came dead last in the smiles department, according to the latest customer service survey by the Mystery Shopping Providers Association. The city received 48 marks out of 100, while Ireland reeled in a perfect score and mainland China ranked 26th with 83 points.

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Hong Kong people are so consumed by living such a hectic life and dedicating more energy to aggressive competition, they appear to have forgotten how to smile because no one else seems to be doing it. It is essentially a vicious cycle.

I set out to change this a few years ago with two of my girlfriends and my daughter. After dinner on a Saturday night at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Central, we agreed we would smile at strangers, big time. It was awkward at first when we approached our first target – a security guard standing at the club’s entrance.

Initially he thought we were drunk but after we politely said goodnight to him, he smiled back. We did this to almost every stranger we came across on the way home.

A week later, a man with a stocky build came up to me with a big grin on his face at a taxi rank in Central and said: “Hello, do you remember me?” I apologised and replied: “Sorry, you must have mistaken me for someone else.” He chuckled and said: “It’s me, the security guard at the FCC.”

That instantly put a big smile on my face.

Of course, not smiling does not necessarily mean one is unhappy. But it is uplifting to be visibly happy and share positive energy. A smile is infectious and can go a long way to spread happiness. Go put on a happy smile and plant one on someone’s face. After all, ‘tis the season to be jolly!

Luisa Tam is a senior editor at the Post