Recognizing that the sweeping societal change and the looming uncertainties in the country due to the COVID-19 can pose a serious threat to the well-being of the Filipinos, the Department of Science and Technology-MIMAROPA (DOST-MIMAROPA) in partnership with the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD) tapped Professor Raj Raghunathan, a world-renowned happiness expert, to share the most practical, relatable, and proven ways to achieve happiness in our current situation in a webinar entitled “Finding Happiness in the Midst of the Pandemic” last April 29, 2021.

More than 1,200 local and international participants attended the webinar mainly composed of employees from DOST and other National Government Agencies (NGAs), State Universities and Colleges (SUCs), Higher Education Institutes (HEIs), Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), and private individuals. The webinar was made open to the public via Zoom and Facebook Live.

Prof. Raj Raghunathan as he begins his talk on Finding Happiness in the Midst of the Pandemic

Raghunathan, who has spent years researching and understanding happiness, shared that his recent research showed that 70% of the people are more stressed or anxious due to the pandemic. Common reasons include unproductivity, overwhelming feelings, loneliness, health problems, and job-related insecurities which topped the list. Consequently, this affected people’s creativity and productivity to which he reiterated the importance of the happiness of employees in an organization.

“Studies have shown that people showed up more for work when they are happy. Happier people are better teammates and are more creative, objective, and productive. Happier people even earn more money,” stressed Prof. Raghunathan. “According to the studies of Professor Ed Diener, dubbed as the Father of Happiness, happier people, on average, have higher salary by 32 %.”

The BAMBA Model

“BAMBA” Model of Happiness

He noted that the sources of happiness would apply whether in the state of a pandemic or normal time. He called these five major sources of happiness, the BAMBA model. It stands for Basic needs, Autonomy, Mastery, Belonging, and Abundance culture which needs to be met for happiness and fulfillment.

“Happiness is not just a feel-good emotion, but it is useful to be happy. Happier people are healthier, have better functioning immune systems, and live longer,” said Raghunathan mentioning more positive findings from happier people.

Dr. Diana Ignacio, the DOST Assistant Secretary for Human Resources Management, Management Services, and Special Concerns emphasized how the BAMBA model could help people live a happier life. She said, “There are very valuable lessons from Prof. Raj. Let us not dwell on things that might give us stress and anxiety. We can choose happiness. We can choose positivity.”

Compassion and Kindness

Raghunathan said that another key to truly feel happy at this time is to be compassionate and kind to other people. “In this time of the pandemic, the more people we can help with our resources, the happier we become. In helping other people, you also help yourself,” he said.

In his speech, the Secretary of Science and Technology of the Philippines, Secretary Fortunato de la Peña shared that he considered the achievement of DOST such as the breakthrough of technologies, research outputs, and among others, as his peak moments relating to Raghunathan’s lesson.

“There is nothing better than the feeling of happiness when you help somebody and be connected with the people. I learn that I can lose all my cash helping other people but still feel happy,” shared de la Peña.

DOST Secretary de la Pena as he shares his learnings and insights about Finding Happiness amid the Pandemic

From Texas to the Philippines

On how this big event came about, Dr. Ma. Josefina P. Abilay, the Regional Director of DOST-MIMAROPA and the lead organizer of the public webinar, said that she was a student of Professor Raghunathan in the Coursera course entitled “A Life of Happiness and Fulfillment.” Dr. Abilay also served as the moderator during the program.

“When I was his student at Coursera, I thought, wow, I never saw happiness and fulfillment in this light. I better share this with my colleagues in DOST and our partner institutions,” she quipped.

She shared that the webinar aimed at sharing research-based ways to be happy as we try to navigate unfamiliar paths brought by the pandemic.

“As a leader, I would love to be happier too and I am sure most of you would. So, I thought it would be a great help to share the research outputs for us to remain healthy amidst the pandemic,” she said.

DOST-MIMAROPA Regional Director and Forum Moderator Dr. Ma. Josefina P. Abilay as she introduces Prof. Raj Raghunathan to the audience

Dr. Abilay moderated the Open Forum session which received an overwhelming expression of appreciation from the audience. Participants were interested in the application of the BAMBA Model, ways to overcome stress, and finding the motivation when struggling emotionally, among others.

The forum was well-received by the participants, many of them expressing gratitude to DOST for organizing a very timely and relatable e-learning forum. As happiness is a topic that interests everyone and one of the overlooked aspects of dealing with the pandemic, participants conveyed the need for more similar activities.

The happiness expert, Professor Raj Raghunathan, also known as Dr. Happy-smarts, is a Zale Centennial Professor of Business at the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas and a visiting Professor of Marketing at the Indian School of Business at Hyderabad. He devoted years of his life learning the impact of people’s judgments and decisions on their happiness and fulfillment.

He also teaches a very successful online course named “A life of Happiness and Fulfilment.” The online course was recognized as the Top Massive Open Online Course or MOOC of 2015- 2018, and one of the Top 50 MOOCs of all time with close to 400,000 students from 196 countries. His recent happiness course titled “Employee Happiness” was rated as the Top MOOC of 2019 with more than 5,000 students. He has also delivered several keynote lectures and a TED Talk on his remarkably important lesson on living a happy life, which aired on STAR TV India and viewed live by over 17 million people worldwide.

Besides being a speaker and educator, he also authored the book titled, “If you’re so smart, why aren’t you happy.” The book was released in the US, UK, and India in 2016 and was translated to about 13 other languages aside from English. He also shares his insights through his Psychology Today blog, Sapient Nature, which has over 2 million page views to date. His works have also appeared in top journals and have been cited in several mass media outlets, including The Atlantic, The New York Times, Fortune, Forbes, and Harvard Business Review.

Some of the DOST Executive Officials (Upper left: Asec. Diana Ignacio, Lower Left: Dr. Imelda Angeles-Agdeppa, and Upper Right: Dr. Ma. Josefina P. Abilay) and Romblon State University President Dr. Merian Mani (Lower right) had a chance to convene with Prof. Raj Raghunathan before the end of the forum.