We are living in the most abundant time in human history in terms of wealth, health and technological advancement, but why aren’t we happy?
Duy Huynh (LPCUWC 1995) says happiness and well-being is something that is deeply personal, but there is quite a lot of science that might offer some clues to the question of happiness.
“It’s time to shift the conversation away from mental illness to wellness. I wanted this workshop to offer a model for building resilience and optimism; and set participants, students and faculty alike, on the pathway to handling stress and strong emotions in a proactive and helpful way, now and into the future,” Duy says.
Now a filmmaker and the executive producer of Beyondedge.com, an Australia-based company that specializes in corporate culture and e-learning, Duy is producing a documentary on How to Thrive. He also chairs the United World College National Committee in Australia.
LPCUWC was grateful to have Duy on campus last month before he flew to Japan to do a similar workshop on “How to Thrive – a practical guide to happiness” at UWC ISAK Japan.
So what makes us happy?
Duy points out that we all need to consider what resonates with us. Finding time to be grateful, being appreciative of our lives and savouring the positives help us live our best lives.
Dealing with Strong Emotions
What about stress and strong emotions like anger, frustration, shame, guilt or sadness? Duy suggests we should be grateful for them.
“Strong emotions are important in helping us find meaning in life. We rarely feel strongly about anything we don’t care about. Tough emotions are part of our contract with life. You don't get to have a meaningful career or raise a family or leave the world a better place without stress and discomfort,” he shares.
So how do we handle strong emotions? He suggests six:
- Be aware of your emotions because they offer great insight into your purpose and what you care about
- Fully embrace your emotions, good or bad, and know that it’s perfectly normal to have them and there’s nothing to be ashamed of
- Regard emotions as data, not directives. Just because we feel emotions, it doesn’t mean we allow them to rule us
- Ask yourself what you want from this situation now you understand you’re feeling this way
- Have compassion for yourself self & others
- Take action that is aligned with your values
Duy's Own Experience with Adversity
Duy is no stranger to adversity. He speaks from deep experience. Together with his parents, he fled Vietnam on a boat as a refugee at age 5. Unfortunately, their boat was raided by pirates who took away everything they had. As he describes their situation at that time: “We were left to die of starvation.” Two weeks later, they found themselves washed ashore, ushered to a refugee camp where the living conditions were "sub-human".
But a living testament to maintaining a positive perspective, Duy says that despite what he went through, he remained grateful. “I knew everyday was a gift. I was lucky to just be alive. I found happiness in a bowl of food and the opportunity to see another sunrise,” he shares.
Looking back, Duy says he chose to see post-traumatic stress as a positive that inspires greater striving for success in life, instead of letting himself be pulled back by trauma. “Any trauma has the ability to translate into growth if we look at it from a healthy perspective,” he adds.
(Photo: LPCUWC Principal Arnett Edwards giving a certificate to Duy.)