Professor Nalaka Mendis
Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry
University of Colombo
Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry
University of Colombo
Good Morning Everybody!
First of all I would like to tell you that I’m very happy to be here this morning as the Chief Guest or the Keynote speaker, especially because I am associated with an organization which has during the last five years as mentioned by Dr. Darshan, has been able to successfully organize an international conference. So I would like to congratulate Dr. Darshan Perera and his Institute, Dr. Batuwanthuduwe, Dr. Shavindra Dias and many more people having associated with this institute for doing something of this nature during this last four to five years.
Well we heard from great people, Mahela Jayawardene Sri Lankan cricket captain, we heard from Dr.Darshan, we heard from many people. And Mahela mentioned about facing difficult situations and stressors and he admitted the following by saying that you got to be ready, you got to be prepared to face the reality situations. Then we spoke to this associate, I asked her what she was doing and she said she was helping Dr. Darshan Perera and then she said she is going to do her Ph.D. in Psychology in U.S. And I asked her what she wants to do after that and she said that she would like to join an organization which works for the benefit of many people not one person, or perhaps for a NGO like WHO. She probably didn’t realize that when World Health Organization was established in 1940s, the greatest themes in that organization was Humanistic Psychology by Maslow. So there’s great connection and she might probably study much more than I know. And also I was talking to Prof. Jerome Carson this morning and its strange that we have been working at the same place for a number of years in UK in London, perhaps I was a little earlier than him and met many people who have worked together and we talked about the connections, again we are talking about Well-being, we are talking about connections and about sharing things.
So we come to our theme of today Mental Well-being. And when I was reading this I realizedthat there’s a ray of topics, mindfulness, dyslexia, dental problems, dementia, whole heap of problems. And I found in process that there’s a colleague from Hungaria, presenting Monika Albu on Mindfulness. And I looked back in 1976 when I was working with a Hungarian Molecular Biologist who developed a famous theory and he developed a drug which probably could control or treat depression. He was actually a Research Assistant in London. So it’s interesting how after so many years people coming from very different areas are coming back to very similar activities.
So this is where I spent some time in the hills in Diyatalawa, this is the view when you get up in the morning from the bedroom and this is also the area called the Happy Valley, actually now it’s called Diyatalawa. It was founded by a man called Samuel Landon. He is a Wesleyan Missionary from UK who arrived in 1988 to establish his reformities. He was very fond of helping poor people and children and he named it Happy valley from there onwards.
And today I thought I like to convey four messages this morning. The first being the well-being and essential components of Human life. As we mentioned many times, an important component for human development. I will talk about it little later as we go on.
The second message is health, well-being and mental well-being are rich holistic concepts; they are very rich areas central to personal growth and community development. And I think I don’t have to tell you, many of you here, probably who are much more competent in this area than I am because they have been doing psychology for a long time. But I am looking at this from a very broad perspective.
The third area I want to convey the message in which is enhancing factors of well-being. What are the factors that determine the well-being and what are the factors that enhances, since Dr.Darshan was talking about enhancing factor. And how do we modify these things? By social means or by other means.
And the last is situation in Sri Lanka we are facing, and people like Dr.Darshan and Dr.Shavindra and many other people who are here and many of you would have to probably get together and respond to this.
Now during the last ten years or so I have been working in psychiatry since 1974 but even today is a challenge like we see these people because it’s always a new problem they come with which we haven’t had solutions to we have all the new drugs used in psychiatry or during therapies but many of these things don’t seem to be answering many problems that we are facing. But the fact is that the people want answers to these questions. And if you look at Sri Lanka, during the last twenty to thirty years individuals, practitioners and institutions have come up with all kinds of problems and responses and so are the development organizations internationally. Now meditation in Sri Lanka has become a huge practice during the last twenty to thirty years. At all levels meditation is not confined to religion only, many people who are in their 40s and 50s take part in these activities. In fact when Deepak Chopra came in, he had a lecture in this hall, BMICH, and got the impression that in people’s lives that emotional mental well-being or mental health or whatever the term that you use. And if you look at the industry in Sri Lanka a man called Deepal Sooriyaarachchi some of you might know, goes to various companies and has these retreats and relaxation stress management kind of techniques so it has evolved quite a lot and it’s interesting. A place that our neighbors in Diyatalawa owned by a German, he has a retreat this is a very big center. Every three weeks a German group of People comes and spends time here for Ayurvedic treatment and relaxation, vegetarian food and all kinds of things like that. And this is a small hospital in Diyatalawa where there’s a different psychiatrist every month. These people, who come to the mental health clinic and discuss their issues because, see twenty years ago as I heard that people talk about their problems with others but here they are in it. And once a month they come and sell their stuff in the hospital car park so all the people in the hospital would buy. You probably wouldn’t believe there are number of committee organizations one is positive mind job. You know there are religious organizations, there are ayurvedic organizations there are organizations based on western psychology are talking about psychological names providing services in Sri Lanka.
And this is one of the very old mental hospitals in Colombo, you would see just outside hundred yards away from here now it’s called Arcade Independence. Arcade was the finest Mental Hospital in Asia at that time. They wanted to build the biggest or the best asylum. Now people come and enjoy their lives here. In fact the old mental hospital Angoda in Sri Lanka has renamed now it’s called the National Institute of Mental Health although it continues to treat seriously mentally ill people. And we have research activities, professional activities, WHO workshops and there was this interesting paper about social stability in Sri Lanka. All I’m trying to tell you is that there’s lot of activity going on which we are not familiar with so what I’m saying is the Sri Lankan psychiatrist working in England has done a study on Well-being. And then we come to this other aspect of the international organizations which focus on well-being. If it’s at the UN, Dr.Darshan was talking about sustainable development UN report on global development and sustains approved on September, one goal is promotion of mental health. In all these reports they talk about the goal of well-being not the money not the personal capital income not the economy.
And I would come to the most important aspect of that mental well-being was thought to be happiness, enjoyment, contentment and all but it is much more than that. It is essentially mental well-being because it is a major issue in promoting personal growth, how productive you are going to be, how well you are going to be, how resilient you are going to be. You are going to be sharing networking meaningful purposeful and connected life so that’s about mental well-being and mental health development including social capital. Then of course the standard things that we are familiar with in mental health problems and mental illnesses physical illnesses by early detection or the compliance with the medical advice or whatever it may be, the impact of the illness and treatment and most importantly the last point is effectiveness. I was with a wonderful person who was called Jonathan. He is at London and he has shown how early intervention in conduct disorders in a certain bars in London showed the reduction of mental health problems conduct disorders later in life. So that is a beautiful piece of work. So now we know mental, physical and social functioning are interdependent and all these are related to each other. All societies have a concept of mental health although they don’t use the term mental health; they might be using other terms. Now my discussion on mental health, I was trying to find another Sri Lankan word for it, it’s very difficult to find one. And one person suggested the term “Sapa Saneepa” you know does it portray or convey the meaning of well-being. But those are the issues we struggle with. My point of behavior related and, mental health is all individual or families or communities and it’s not only professions. We saw the judges, the lawyers, we saw the business people talking about these issues. So my topic, the important concept of well-being is relevant to self-development and personal growth. And of course most of these studies have come from the west specially during the 1940’s and 1950’s, but we must not forget that most of the people who came up with these issues also had the experience in the east, they didn’t only work in Switzerland or France or Germany, people of public health and people spent time in China, Russia. So that had some other experiences. And also it has come from various other sources on the new public health movement which is initiated in 1974 by a man called Mando in Canada. I’m not going to go into it, because it is very different to what I’m talking about. Then the public health movement, which is also a new one which is different from the individual act.
Positive psychology many of you know by Prof. Martin Seligman and various groups of people who went on earlier ideas towards positive psychology rather than treating the ill people, disease concept they talked about the well people or the personal development. Neurochemistry is a big area where so many people started connecting the brain chemistry with the environment; people got Nobel prizes. For instance concepts on neuroplasticity where people said that it was shown that there are changes happening in the brain chemistry and brain cells based on the inputs from the society and different stimuli. And of course in epidemiology where people felt that maternal mortality infant mortality is no more, other things are also important like this global burden, and things like that where it was shown that mental health or mental health morbidity or mental health problems can take a huge shrunk of burden of the global burden of health problems. Then of course we have a number of organizations and institutes and agencies which concentrates only on well-being, there’s one in Cambridge in U.K, you probably know about it, considerable number of agencies, institutions and organizations, for example Seligman’s institute, and there are number of people who have developed this area and we have got evidence from them.
So I come to my second point, well-being and mental health are rich holistic concepts. That’s the second point I would like to convey. Three people are very important. A man called Siegrist from Zurich, then the second person is Stampar from Yugoslavia, he was the first President of the World Health Assembly and most importantly Brock Chisholm who was a psychiatrist, who was the first Director General of the World Health Organization. He was a unique character because he has fought in both world wars, WW I and WW II, and also he was the medical director of the army who was also responsible for recruiting people for the armed forces and he became very influential in developing this concept of Health. And of course Abraham Maslow Humanistic psychologist, all of you know him, and the interesting thing is we talked about health as complete of mental social and physical well-being and not only the absence of disease. What does it mean? You know once one of the director generals of the WHO called Marlon, asked Brock Chisholm what do you really mean by health? He said all I can refer is to the experience I had, when I was involved in the war. I read the text fascinating, “ I have experienced this complete physical, mental and social well-being many times as a partisan when I decided to risk my life for something I thought was vitally important, namely freedom from occupation. Complete physical well-being, in that I as an individual could make a difference against a huge army of occupation. Complete mental well-being, in that I fully realized my existential freedom by deciding to risk my life for something vitally important. And complete social well-being, in that I knew that I should not come back alive somebody might from my partisan group would take care of my family.” I mean that was a fascinating statement and so in facing death this partisan maintained that he had experienced an innate transcendental meaning of WHOs definition. That’s why I said it’s a very rich concept. It’s not a too simple thing that we think of. And we come to the basis of that, the basis of this is essentially innate human potential. The concept which has evolved in the western world during the last centuries actually and then again highlighted in 1940s, why public health professionals, social medical people, World War I & II experience and humanistic psychology movement to realize the heavy potential of this people living in a community and these two things are connected: Individual and the community. That is the message that I would like to convey by this rich work.
And we come to the second concept, mental health and well-being concept. Now what is well-being? Again different people will come with different approaches, but one is this usual pleasure pain happiness and hedonic approach. And the other one is a more complicated more rich eudemonic approach. You talk about a much bigger range of activities focused on meaning and self-realization and as a source to fully functioning this society. So this is a very rich meaning than the pleasure principle and generally that’s the word that you talk about, that’s the theme the understanding we have when we talk about it. And in fact Seligman In one of his writings he has compared that to the Buddhist word, “Suka” talked about the morality, the cultivation of mental balance and the understanding of the nature phenomenon to this term of it. And also we recognized ones kinship with all others and help others develop stages of well-being. So it’s a community individual relationship. Whereas, in this part of the world we always talked about the community aspect of it not so much the individual saying that’s the south Asian philosophy or the Buddhist philosophy which I don’t agree with, I think ultimately both these things matter quite a bit.
What do we really mean by mental well-being? Dr.Darshan has talked about sustainability andit is important to develop their potential productively creatively build strong and positive relationships with others and contribute to the community. And if it enhances better, individual is able to fulfill the personal and social morals. And of course have a sense of achievement. Are you content? Do you have energy sense of purpose? How do you deal with bad days? Are you progressing as your plan? So some days some of these organizations have different models put in different ways we talked about the harmony alignment of the body and spirit. And how do you achieve well-being? All of us have our own ways of doing it but generally we talk about identifying and realizing the aspirations of a person, what do you acquire. And to satisfy your aspirations, to satisfy the needs and how do you bring about achievement or adopt to a mixed situation. Well-being is natural there’s no one who likes to be angry or hostile or uncomfortable. All of us like to be in a happy state, pleasant state, comfortable state. So well-being is what people call a natural phenomenon. How can I enhance my well-being, what should I do to feel content and balanced, a simple but radical question because asking this shifts are whole perspective. We are no longer looking to our health care providers. Governments, food companies tell us what we need to do. To listen perhaps for the first time to our body mind and spirit and evaluate fast is what makes sense and then we tune into what we need we naturally find ourselves seeking purpose security and health, as well as connections to families friends and our larger communities. It’s a profound statement but that is what it means when we talk about the rich concepts of well-being. Well in simple language well-being takes lots of people, give them compassion, generosity, gratefulness, connections with the people relationships and continuously learnt.
Now I come to third concept Mental Health. Mental Health is a simple way of looking at, it’s a foundation on which for well-being and effective function. It’s a resource. Mahela talked about, you got to be facing stressful situations, challenges, but he immediately followed it by saying you have to be ready. I think he has got the answer very nicely that you got to have energy within you, practice or skill or ability or affect or whatever that needs to react that’s the resource. And we talked about the individual and the community. Not again one person, but that’s a whole lot. And then had expanded the definition of Well-being, content, connected, secure resilient all that. And then the individual relies or potential can cope with normal stressors in the life, productive, fruitful and again contribution to the society. So we talked about the positives and as a resource it’s there but how do we now utilize that to lead a fruitful and effective life? That’s what the mental well-being is about. In contrast to mental illness, where you are ill, and you are trying to do something to make feel better. And positive mental health essentially considers mental health as a resource it is essential to subjective well-being and perceive with our surroundings to adopt to or change them necessary and to communicate with each other, have successful social interactions experience by meaningfully helping us among other things to create with creative and productive means to the society. There’s a very interesting report in UK, Prof. Carson will be aware of, defined it in a different way but I will talk about it later.
Now I come to the third area of my presentation what determines your well-being and how do you enhance the well-being? Generally we talk the determining factors and the enhancing factors that need to socialize large scale macro and then society changes that is, and then we talk about the individual psychological approaches. Generally when we talk about health, we talk about the human biology which completely neglected, we talk about the environmental factors which are responsible, lifestyle factors which are responsible. As far as the determinisms are concerned there are three aspects in the social area. Social developments and which has health education employment, housing and security. Those are the basic needs of people. To what extent do they have these? Once they have it the second concept is the social capital. The glue which it binds the society, networks together with shared norms, values and understandings that facilitate corporation within and other groups. We talked about networks. Social capital provides the glue to which facilitates cooperates exchange and innovation. And of course the environment, pleasing environment, environment like this or pleasing natural environment. So the protective factors in the society empower ethnic minority, integration, positive personal interactions, social participation in all these things came up to the world in 1994 produced by Harvard. So these are very social oriented. And of course the other people said we got to empower these people and the individuals so as to realize their mental energies but both are very influential. Discovering one’s self and how do you promote If it is a country, if you look at World Health report they talk about the macro issues and the micro issues. Macro issues are the government actions and the usual actions are essentially actions in schools, hospitals, neighborhoods, families, where you can enhance their well-being by various means.
Then I come to the individual approach. Again you are familiar with Martin Seligman’s positivity of enhancing well-being, talked about authority and he has certain lot of techniques to enhance the well-being, enhancement the creativity, bravery, kindness all kind of things like that. Davidson very cleverly talked about developing the mind. And he gave positive inspiration to people and showed the possibility. Affects or emotions can bring up changes in your perceptions and your explanation and cognitive activities how they are connected. So well-being is something very useful. Another group of people as many of you know talked about the mindfulness. Of course that is something most of you didn’t know who has borrowed the concept of mindfulness and great influence in the United States and elsewhere in the world. Reported in UK is a fascinating report that is produced very recently talked about the kind of people the United Kingdom needs in twenty years’ time to meet the social economic and cultural problems faced and how to improve and they come up with the Mindfulness. Which in a mind is used, well-being is used and it’s a fascinating report to read because it covers neurochemistry on one side and epidemy on the other side, and economics on the other side and social care on the other side.
Now i come to my last point, Sri Lankans situations, Dr.Darshan and Dr.Shavindra and manyothers who are here facing because we have a problem where there is a need, there’s a vacuum, there’s a mental health or mental well-being need it seems. That is why so many people are wanting, so many organizations are coming up and so many people are somehow or the other trying to fill this gap but its bridging part of it appropriate scientific or cost effective I don’t know. So in order to do that we have to feel that mental health is an important area. Do we attach any value to mental health or well-being? If we don’t attach any value to mental health well-being we will not allocate any resources to that. So at the highest levels you have to start talking about the mental well-being whether it’s a professional leadership or political leadership or democracy or whatever it is. And the UN has thought enough this time, in the UN Assembly concepted that they are going to approve this document where mental well-being or mental health is a whole of United Nations in the next 20 years. What are the core issues In mental well-being, what is it that we want? You got to identify what we really mean by it is the contentment in a relationship with the creativity, moral issues of the individual so you got to identify and how it is applicable to this country. It may be not be taken straightaway and put in, here you got to identify and how we need to draw it to the system. The Sri Lankan group we have faced four obstacles, I have seen first is: traditional way of thinking, our education system is an essentially collecting data and accumulating information so issues of emphasis on education and training is essentially knowledge. You have to change that into how to develop this creative energetic person, and the reluctance to creatively interpret and integrate the modern developments to the local situation. And most of our thinking in our part of the country is essentially compartment. It’s not only in Sri Lanka but in many countries, but things are changing very much. You got to start looking for holistic manner and try to reform the systems. And the other day I was listening to somebody 90, he was saying that the fascinating thing in about 15 years’ time there won’t be casinos, there won’t be clubs and all that so there’ll be a huge large number of unemployed, what are they going to do? So the society will help find solutions to those things. So you got to be ready, so we got to promote advocacy leadership, integrate and of course resources.
And I would finish by quoting Buddha “No other thing do I know, The mind when undeveloped and uncultivated inherits great sufferings.” So with that I conclude and I congratulate Dr.Darshan Perera and wish all of you a great success in this conference and welcome you on behalf of the mental health community in this country.
Thank you very much!
Professor of Psychology
University of Bolton, UK
It’s a great pleasure to be here, and my first visit to Sri Lanka. And I just like to pay respect as well to members of the religious communities we have here today and who weren’t mentioned yesterday and great respect to them.
So I’m going to talk about “Happiness what it is and why it matters?” In England some people know me as Professor Happiness. But saying that term is slightly unfair because if you see some of the work I’ve being doing on Happiness has really come from a colleague of mine who I will mention in a bit. So I wanted to dedicate this presentation to a Sri Lankan colleague who died in 2007, Padmal De Silva who I worked with at institute of Psychiatry for many years. Padmal took the difficult decision to leave Sri Lanka and worked at the institute of Psychiatry for many years and inspired many generations of clinical psychologists. And his funeral was held in London and there was hardly standing room in the church. He was such a popular man. So I pay tribute to my legendry Sri Lankan colleague.
And the wonderful thing is seeing those children having such a good time and I love the little cat with the hat. And the music was fantastic. So I just want you to interact, turn to the person next to you and just ask them or tell them what was the happiest period in your life? Could you just share that with the person next to you please? So you get the idea what was the happiest period of your life.
So a little bit of personal stuff: My happiest days were when I was an undergraduate student, in England, and I was there from 1976 to 1979 and why were they happy days? Well because in those days in England you didn’t have to pay to go to university. Not only that the government tax we paid to, we all got grams which meant you could spend your time getting drunk at the country’s expense. Now it didn’t take too long before the politicians realized this was a bad idea. And they decided to charge students for the privilege. So nowadays we have a student union bar in the middle of the university, I’ve never seen a single student drunk. I wish I could say that about my student days. So when I was in university of Reading, which is a campus University, in the south of England and one of the shots there you can see the wonderful dine room, for those who were familiar with Harry Potter novels, it was more like Hogwarts, beautiful benches, wonderful old building and even managed to get photos from my old room or a stage and of course this what it’s all about, it’s the graduation day, for some of you in this room that day is coming very soon, the first psychology graduates, will be graduating this September. And that will be a great day for you mainly for your folks who supported you all these years. And of course the other has to be, I fell in love. So this is how the story goes, she went to France for a year as people study in France have to spend a year and I was left in Reading and Reading was full of women. And I thought this isn’t really going to work. So I went to France and had a splendid week, she paid for me for a week; I didn’t have money. And the night before I left, I said her the actual reason why I’ve come here is to end our relationship. Just wait till the end of the story.
So this is Sandie McHugh who is currently on the way to Romania to give a talk on Happiness. And Sandie and I had been very fortunate that there was a study, perhaps the first ever scientific study done on Happiness was conducted in Bolton in 1938, by a group of Researchers who were social anthropologists who had gone around the world to study in different tribes. And the only place we haven’t studied people, is our own country, let’s find out what people in the North of England actually act like. So they went to the north of England and they did observational studies which meant spending a lot of time in public watching people drink, in fact the only good thing produced was a book about the Bolton and its pubs but they decided to study about the town of Bolton. And some figures of the Bolton was in 1931 in a population of fourteen and a half thousand people around the world. Total population of hundred and seventy seven thousand. Seventeen percent of the occupied male population, four percent of the female population. The town had three hundred pubs, six dance halls and forty seven cinemas within five miles of the town and then two hundred churches and chapels.
What happened at that time in the world, well at that time in the world, Hitler had just drivenin to Vienna for one crucial battle in Spain. So they decided that they’ll organize some competitions to find a way of going beyond the reports of Boltonians written by the observers to access the self often perspectives of Bolton people themselves. Therefore the price, for instance the five pounds for the best account of how I spent one day of my September holidays. And this generated 564 responses. So you might see September holidays in those days the lots of people in the English towns went to this Sea side resort called Black Pool. And certain towns had specific resorts for them. So the one in Glasgow fortnight when most people left Glasgow and went to stay in Black Pool. So this is the only place that a lots of working class people went to have their holidays.
So this was the happiness competition they had. The competition was trying to find out what Bolton thinks. What does happiness means to you in words? Write down what you think never mind the grammar, it’s your opinion that is wanted. So they invited people to write about happiness. But they also had a questionnaire about happiness. And what they got people to do was to write the order of ten items on the questionnaire as per the questions. So this study was done in 1938 so we repeated that study in 2014 with the help of a little newspaper. And when we approached the newspaper saying we would like to this in fact they said have a whole week and have a happiness week. So we had a happiness week in Bolton news with a variety of pictures that had to do with happiness. So this was a rank order with aspects of what happiness means in 2014. So there were 10 items and people were asked to put in order what’s the most important down to the least important and the most important thing that contribute to peoples happiness as they said was humor. The second was security by that they meant economic security and the lowest one was religion. I’ll come back to that in a second because when we compared the result with 1938, religion was the third most important thing for people in Bolton but in 2014 it had dropped to the least important thing. That’s probably the most significant change in the items we had ranked order.
So this was in 2014 humor, security, pleasure were high, humor was fourth in 1938 and security was first and pleasure was eighth. I just received from England last night, the transcriptions we have also over 200 letters written by people at a time about what happiness meant to them. And this is just one of the samples of the letters, and this is what it says “I think luck has a lot to do with happiness because if we were lucky enough to win a little it could make us tremendously happy”. And then the more contemporary view is the circumstances were born in to your genetic inheritance helps. So what we hope to do is to actually collect some narrates from the people in 2014 and compare the narrates with the stories in from 1938 to see how actually they are different. And one of the differences is people in 1938 in the England they expected much less from life. And much happier with much less than people today who expect more from their life than people at that time. One of the things about happiness is what advertisers know about happiness and what they tell.
So those were some old advertising from England. So I’m going to ask you now to complete ameasure of happiness this is a very short scaled and there are 4 items and it’s the subjective happiness scale. So what I want you to do just to write down the numbers and then you’re going to write the score next to each number. So Question No-1: In general, I consider myself as a not happy person at the other end a very happy person. So give yourself a mark on that scale of 1-7. Question No-2: Compared with most of my peers I consider myself less happy at one end, more happy at the other end. Again give yourself a mark on that scale from 1-7. Question No-3 : Some people are generally very happy, they enjoy life regardless of what is going on, getting the most out of everything. To what extent does this characterization describe you? On one end not at all and the other end a great deal. Again give yourself a score from 1-7. Question No-4: Some people are generally not happy they never seem as happy as they could be. To what extent does this characterization describe you? Again note the score. So you should have scores on 4 items. So all the scores from items 1- 3 are society things about psychology questionnaires, item 4 is reverse scoring, so if you have 7 that becomes a 1, if you have 6 that becomes a 2, 5 becomes to 3 , 4 becomes 4 , 3 becomes 5, 2 becomes 6 and 1 becomes 7. So if you managed to do that well done. Add the four scores together divide them by 4. My scores were: Question No1 – 6, Question No2 – 6, Question No3- 6, Question No4 – 2 but with reverse score that becomes a 6, so four sixes that become 24 divide by 4, six. Scores range from 1- 7 the average score, is from 4.5- 5.5 interestingly older and retired people score 5.6 if your scores fall on that zone, then you may have to have a word with me.
So that’s the suggested happiness derived by the university, you have some idea where you are. We heard yesterday that Bhuddist monks were the happiest in the world. So we have two monks here today that would prove that. But don’t worry there are individual differences, we can all have good days and bad days. So we heard yesterday about Prof. Martin Seligman, and his work on happiness, so Martin Seligman is a Psychologist, and also in England you have Economists, who are very interested about happiness and one of them is Prof. Richard Layard. And he makes a point as western society has got richer that people have become more happier. And people are more happier today than people 50 years ago. Yet average incomes had more than doubled. And if there’s the simplest measure of happiness that were tested using American and British citizens, taking all very happy, quite happy and not happy. In America 38% said they were very happy and in Britain was 36%, quite happy 53% and 57 % and people who were not very happy were 9 % and 7 %. So happiness could come from different activities. So I would like it in a local Sri Lankan newspaper, say Prof. Carson said it’s actually good for you.
So we see it on a scale from 1-5. Average score of happiness was on 7 but on average, people spend a number of hours per day in that activity. Socializing- 4, relaxing – 3.9, praying, worshiping and meditating- 3.8, computer, email and internet- 3, and lowest thing was commuting. And in terms of people being happy related to: their happiness relating to their friends, relatives comes second, spouse-third and right down at the bottom, if you are a boss people are least happy with them.
What are the factors that affect happiness? According to Prof. Layard, the family, relationships finances work community and friends, personal freedom and personal values. What matters is not what life brings to you, but what you bring to life. Prof. Seligman who came up with the wonderful theory of happiness which essentially said we can get happiness from three things. First thing was a pleasurable life; this is sometimes known as adoring happiness to seeking pleasure. Second type of happiness is called the engaged life. In this picture is an English actress getting as Oscar, so someone who is fully engaged in their profession. And the third one is what is called meaningful life and there is a picture of Mother Theresa. So you are doing something in your life that is more of a sense of purpose and meaning. And engaged life and a meaningful life are more linked to the term happiness. Would you believe David has come up with ten commandments of happiness and number of things like, happiness does not come from success and give priority to close relationships. The other things are the least happy in terms of countries where there are several thousand people. And these are some of the top ten, Costarica, this was in 2010, Denmark, Norway Switzerland, Panama, Australia, and Austria. These are the happiest folks. Now it’s very interesting, where do the unhappy folks come from, what they said was there was no link between money and happiness. So suggest to me that something to do with living and that people are grateful for what they have.
This is a study done by one of the students. She did a study with 3 groups of students, 20 students for joyful, a joy based intervention, each day with a computer presentation, with happy music, pictures and happy colors. And they did that for two weeks and then she compared the groups and another group which had no intervention at all, and just what it showed at the end of the day was people who had the intervention, were significantly happier than the people with no intervention. This is just a two week intervention for students to watch a power point every morning to make the folks a bit happier. So you can lift happiness.
Of course just as we have happiness we have sadness. Another thing the happiness researches missed is the significance of sadness for human kind. And the importance for sadness in the production of great part of literature, great parts of Art etc. And great people Abraham Lincoln, for an example, when he was brought up his mother died when he was only 9, his younger brother died in childhood, his sister died in childbirth when he was 19 his close friend died, and in November 1842 someone saw walking through the town and they said “where are you going?” And he said “to hell I suppose”, he was on the way to marry Mary Todd, who turns out later to have schizophrenia, so his wife was really mentally ill. It’s hard to believe this, three of his four sons died before him. Think about that. But he had mental illness, clinical depression he was sad, Lincoln had his melancholy drip from him as he walked. He had his first depressive episode in1835. The convention of psychiatric treatment of the time was that he was bled, puked, starved, dosed him with mercury and pepper, rubbed him with mustard and plunged him in cold water. Lincoln had his own coping strategies, he told jokes and stories, and he read recited and composed poetry that dwelled on themes of death, depression and human futility. And it did affect his life as a public figure? Well for many people it had shown he had triumphed over difficulty, after a life time of inner turmoil, Lincoln had experience and judgment to look into trouble. There’s no doubt Abraham Lincoln suffered with recurrent mental illness. The Americans had even written two books about it and you cannot find that about other things in the two books written about his mental illness. His inner life affected his afterlife positively and there was no one in deed dealing with. Not just Lincoln, Winston Churchill, again upbringing, his nanny was Mary Everast and he said she been my dearest and my most intimate friend during the 20 years I have lived. Yet the neglect and lack of interest shown in him by his parents was remarkable. He was sent away to Harrow, to one of the top boarding schools. His career: he was in the army for five years and he entered politics in 1900, became Chancellor of Exchequer from 1924-29. In the 1930’s he was out of office. In 1939 he entered the war and in 1940 became the Prime Minister aged 65. He was very famous as an Orator; he made a statement “I have nothing to offer but blood, tears and sweat. Victory at all costs. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall never surrender”, that voice was our hope, it’s the voice of will, strength.
His leadership ensured the survival of freedom and democracy and yet he suffered with mental illness. Towards the end of his life he said “I have achieved a great deal to achieve nothing at the end.” His experiences with depression helped understand the suffering of the British people in the war. The main aspects of his personality as a Psychiatrist wrote “..had he been a stable and equable man, he could never have inspired the Nation. In 1940 when all the odds were against Britain, a leader of sober judgment might have concluded we were finished” but not Churchill.
So this is back to that lady in the picture I first told you, so here’s a picture of the two of us taken two years ago, so we are back together now. And the story did have a happy ending and I am very happy. And here’s another lady who makes me very happy. And this my student Chathurika Kannangara and you heard from her yesterday. She came to learn from me because I am a professor but I have learnt a lot from her. She is not only an Ambassador for Sri Lanka in Britain, and she is one of the only two students in the entire University that people actually know. So I am absolutely delighted and proud that she is working with me.
So just to sum up, Happiness: we are told some differences. Chinese culture take completely different collective view, western culture is more individualistic. This distinction between Eudaimonia which was first drawn to our attention by Aristotle many years ago. Relationships are very critical for happiness. Then individual differences: one size does not fit all and the society factors. True happiness can be found inside. So be yourself as well and celebrate your difference. And the Chinese philosopher once said “’Happiness is dependent on unhappiness, while unhappiness is hidden in happiness.”
So thank you very much for your attention.
Director of Academic Affairs
Colombo Institute of Research & Psychology
Prof Nalaka, Prof Jerome, Members of the Faculty of CIRP, Distinguished Guests from different parts of the world, Ladies and Gentlemen. First of all I think you had a good look at what people believe psychology to be and beliefs and misbeliefs of psychology in this part of the world. That’s one of the reasons that you need to organize more opportunities and conferences like this in this part of the world so that we are able to establish what psychology is and what psychology is not.
So first let me welcome all of you to ICAP Sri Lanka 2015, the second International Conference on Applied Psychology. On behalf of the ICAP Secretariat and the Staff and the Students of Colombo Institute of Research and Psychology, the two main organizing bodies of ICAP, I consider it an absolute privilege and honor to have the opportunity to address all the senior Academics, Researchers and Professionals of Psychology from different parts of the world who have come here to share their expertise, experience and knowledge in the field of psychology and I should consider myself privileged twice to address all of you Senior Academics here when I myself have not published anything yet. So I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for me.
And talking about ICAP let me draw your attention to three words in the tagline of ICAP: Inspire Share and Network.
ICAP aims at inspiring young students and young professionals in the field of psychology to be involved in research. You know, it’s unfortunate but in this part of the world, the level of interest and enthusiasm shown by the young academics as well as the students in the field of psychology or in the field of research is not very high. Let us look at the reasons, one thing I think is because of the way we still design our curriculum and educate even the undergraduates and postgraduates. Most of the students still don’t seem to understand the importance of research and or in other occasions they don’t have the opportunity to be involved in research. And apart from that one of the main reasons I believe that the reason that students are not involved in research, specially the amateur researchers and young academics is because the systems that we find in some of the academic organizations in this part of the world largely discourages the students being involved in any form of innovative or original thinking covered by the names of qualifications seniority or protocols, so therefore I think ICAP aims at encouraging and inspiring those young individuals who are discouraged and not provided facilities and not provided encouragement by their own institutions, if they are able to do research on their own we are able to provide a platform to present their research.
And the second thing is Share; I think ICAP aims at sharing knowledge. The knowledge one has gained could meaningfully benefit the world only if they share it. So therefore I think the ICAP aims at providing that platform where we are able to share knowledge because if you think about it I think most of, more that ninety percent of the knowledge that we possess we have gained from someone else, through books lectures and things like that. So because of that, because we gain most of the knowledge we possess and claim to have from other people, if you find something on your own, if you are intellectually good to find something on your own or come up with your own theories you are obliged to and it’s your duty to share it to the world so that will benefit the human kind. So therefore second aim of ICAP is that we should be able to provide meaningful and efficient platform for people to share their knowledge between the east and the west and between universities and between the individuals in research and academic organizations.
And also ICAP aims at providing opportunities of networking. That’s one of the areas that we always try to promote through the conference we would like the individuals form different parts of the world to gather and to identify the individuals who think alike, who has the same vision for research and academia, and so that they could build networks and build partnerships. Because I’m sure you all know networking between the academic institutions are happening all over the world but unfortunately most of them only aim at business prosperity. But I think it shall not be confined to that, academics and academic institutions should be able to collaborate in honest means of academic work as well as research work. So therefore I think the third aim of ICAP is to provide that platform to provide that forum so we are able to network with the individuals as well as the academic organizations.
And let me talk a few words about ICAP. This is a unique conference for a number of reasons. I think this is the only conference in the world of this scale which is organized entirely and only by a group of students. So I think that’s something that is unique to this conference. If you look at the entire event, it was organized by undergraduate students of Colombo Institute of Research and Psychology. From event management to inviting guests, and accommodation logistics, finding sponsors and everything, every bit of it was organized by students. And this is the second time we are having it and the last time the feedback from the participants was very good about the level of organization of the event and I hope all of you would feel the same this time too.
And the second thing that I think again is that this conference that is organized by an academic institution of our stature, we are a very small organization, just completed 5 years in operation. So been a private institution that is just only operated for 5 years and is not really big, I think it’s a unique event when you compare to other conferences throughout the world. So I think by organizing an event like this should also show the commitment of the Colombo Institute of Research and Psychology, towards academic excellence and its research orientation. So to conclude my speech I’ll review with few thoughts. In the beginning I told you that this is organized by a group of students who certainly not have even finished their undergraduate research projects, and I myself have not, I don’t have any publications to my name. But few of us have worked very hard to bring this event together I think that resonates the goals and objectives that we hope to achieve from this conference.
I strongly believe that different individuals in the same field have different responsibilities towards that field. And the success of a field would depend on how each of these responsibilities are fulfilled. And these individuals who have these different responsibilities shall not determine their level of commitment and devotion towards their duties and responsibilities based on what they could personally gain from their duties and tasks. Because there should be someone who is willing to do events not so glamorous and not much spoken about responsibilities of a particular field. So I think I would consider myself honored and privileged to lead a group of students who have worked hard to create a platform for others to shine and others to showcase their achievements and gain credibility and reputation where they would only gain some experience about physical labor and documentation. Therefore, the most important message I would like to convey to the psychology academics and researchers out there is that if you are truly interested in the well-being of the humans it shall not only be restricted to research, lectures or academic discussions but also in some form of true services to be provided irrespective of what you could personally gain from such acts. Therefore if any of the research’s presented here today, any of the networks built today, would result in some form of true enhancement of well- being of the humans I think we’ll have achieved the objectives of ICAP. So with that spirit, I hope you all enjoy the next three days of this academic event and hopefully I’ll be able to talk to most of you all whenever I get that chance. Thank you very much for being here and it’s a real encouragement for an academic institute like us who is organizing just for the second time to have your presence here.
Thank you very much!