Thu | Aug 16, 2018

It's International Happiness Day ... Don't worry be happy

Published:Friday | March 20, 2015 | 12:01 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin
Dr Donovan and Faith Thomas, founders of Choose Life International and organisers of Happiness Week.
Faith Thomas encouraging persons to 'lighten up'.

With the tragic murder of close to 10 children since the start of the year, the country's two major cities battling raging fires and the additional burden of a high cost of living, the notion of happiness might be the furthest thing from many people's minds.

However, it is International Happiness Day and Dr Donovan and Faith Thomas are imploring Jamaicans to enjoy life - in spite of their circumstances.

The couple, who are founders of Choose Life International in New Kingston, are the organisers of Happiness Week to run from March 20 to March 27.

"We don't want people to think that choosing to be happy means you are disconnected from reality. The daily disappointments and plight of our children are real and they will hurt. Especially for the families who lost loved ones, they will need serious therapeutic interventions, but at the end of the day, happiness is a choice and we have to be determined to think positive," he declared.

"Happiness sometimes is not instant, it is gradual but one of my mantras is that, life is 10 per cent of what happens and 90 per cent of how you deal with it. If a parent has four children and one dies, you can look at the fact that you still have three other children to take care of, and while you still have life, you are not the worst," he

pointed out.

Happiness Day was established by the United Nations General Assembly on June 28, 2012, and they are inviting "all member states, organisations of the United Nations system and other international and regional organisations, as well as civil society, including non-governmental organisations and

individuals, to observe the International Day of Happiness in an appropriate manner, including through education and public awareness-raising activities ...".


Chose to be grateful


Sharing his own experience of hearing from the doctors that his heart was dead and being robbed of his car in May last year, he said, though the encounter was painful he chose to be grateful.

"Three years ago, March 18, I was in the hospital undergoing a major heart surgery. I actually said good-bye to my wife and told her that it was OK to marry again. They said my heart's functioning rate was 28 per cent. I was depressed; I won't pretend, but I had to choose to be positive and I made a declaration over my life and decided I was going to triumph and three years later my heart is up to 76 per cent," he recalled.

"I also recall last year I was getting ready to do a presentation on the Art and Science of Happiness. At 7 o'clock the morning, I got a call that the vehicle was stolen. I was really not happy but I had to apply the same principles I teach, which is to count your blessings. I realised that my family was not in the hospital or injured, my boys are not hurt and I decided to be happy," Thomas shared.


Obstacle to happiness


Faith in sharing some of the principles from their book Geared To Live: Twelve Keys to Happiness, noted that a major obstacle to true happiness is ungratefulness.

"We live in an ungrateful society. People take a lot for granted and even children quickly catch on to these behaviours. We are not taught to be content and happy with our situations. Instead, we compare ourselves to others and pressure ourselves to live up to society's standards, which is something I believe we should work on as a country."

She continued, "I recall once we asked a group of children to write a letter of gratitude to someone they valued in their lives, some wrote to their grandmothers, fathers and mothers and when they were sharing, many of them were brought to tears when they realised how blessed they truly were and that they had a lot to be grateful for.

"We encourage persons to lighten up, enjoy and embrace the gift of life; bearing in mind that no matter what happens, you are not the worst!"

Choose Life International has planned Happiness Week activities which will run from March 20-27. The schedule is:

- March 20 - International Day of Happiness

- March 20 - Smile Day

- March 24 - Kindness Day

- March 26 - Thank You Day.