Happiness Forum 2021 Resilience in Learning: Positive Education Achieving Human Potential in the most Challenging Time
Psychology Society at Heriot-Watt University Malaysia (HWUM) in collaboration with ‘A Happier U’ committee hosted a virtual annual Global Happiness Forum in conjunction with the International Day of Happiness. The Global Happiness Forum is part of the HWUM ‘A Happier U’ campaign. It was first initiated in 2017 with the purpose to promote happiness and cultivate a caring community, as well as provide opportunities to students and staff that lead to positive emotions and a sense of well-being. The forum offers a platform for speakers to discuss and share ideas to advance the understanding of science behind achieving a positive life and create a flourishing community.
Global Happiness Forum’s theme this year is “Starting smart at university”, with the aim to explore the impact of positive emotions on personal well-being and resilience. A global web-based forum was held on Microsoft Stream live on 20th March 2021. This was the first time the forum was presented virtually and open worldwide. International experts were invited to speak on topics such as keys to happiness, beating stress, and flourishing in an online learning environment. The speakers included Ms Sulynn Chong, Ms Vanessa King, Mr Syed Rahman, Prof. Martha Caddell, and Prof. Deborah Hall. During the forum, there was a live Questions and Answer (Q&A) session to address immediate concerns, the DASS-21 (Depression, Anxiety, Stress Scale) was used to assess Malaysian mental health during the pandemic, and a forum feedback survey and three focus groups of students, parents and educators were carried out to assess its effectiveness on learning about well-being and resilience. The forum attracted 390 participants and more than 800 registrants worldwide.
The live Q&A covered positive psychology, achieving good mental health, online learning and career pathways. The psychological distress score from DASS-21 (n=160) showed that 51.9% (n=83) experienced either extremely severe or severe stress, about 58.7% (n=94) experienced either extremely severe or severe anxiety, approximately 51.3% (n=82) experience either extremely severe or severe depression. In the feedback survey (n=153), 43.7% (n=67) of participants reported the forum was excellent. Common themes identified via the focus groups (n=24) were that the forum provided interesting and valuable information, participants enjoyed having speakers from different backgrounds, created awareness of how being happy and grateful can be essential, was informative, and reminded them that being happy doesn’t always have to be hard. Suggestions from the focus groups to improve the forum included: speakers should talk about different facets of happiness, more time should be given to speakers, and there should be more interaction between speakers and audience. Challenges faced by the organizing committee were mainly technical issues while managing the forum and time zone differences for rehearsals.
With the ongoing pandemic and challenges in our lives, it is easy to forget how to practise things that boost happiness. The event was successful in cultivating a sense of caring, and interest was not limited to the Higher Education sector, but more broadly across the population. Heriot-Watt University Malaysia is pioneering positive psychology in Higher Education.