While in philosophy happiness has always played an important role, in business life this factor has only become relevant recently.
100 years ago, hardly anyone cared if employees were happy.
Nowadays, happiness at work is becoming an increasingly important factor, and even governments are starting to realize that happy citizens are good for the economy.
Studies and research have shown that happiness in the workplace can increase productivity, reduce health risks and thus absent days of employees, as well as increase creativity and commitment.
There is a whole science of happiness that looks into this topic and works at scientifically proving the effects of positive psychology.
Dubai has even set happiness on the national agenda - it wants to become the happiest city in the world.
In 2016, Her Excellency Ohood bint Khalifa Al Roumi was appointed as the first Minister of State for Happiness.
"Happiness and positivity are a lifestyle and government’s commitment and a true spirit that unites the Emirati community."
H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum
UAE Vice-President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai
Currently, her ministry is working on developing the Happiness Agenda, which puts less focus on defining what happiness means, and rather finding out what people need to be happy!
Once the needs of people are clear, solutions can be found to address and meet those needs.
The Dubai Happiness Agenda builds on 4 pillars that aim to transform the happiness of the people living in and visiting Dubai:
The first step is to discover what people need to be happy - by questioning them, by researching and finally coming up with a baseline that needs to be met to create happiness.
Change then needs to be made to policies, services and customer service to ensure that these basic needs are met every day to improve the quality of life in Dubai.
In order to educate individuals and entities to adapt this change and to be more aware of their own contribution and the importance of happiness, lots of measures have already been introduced. People are encouraged to be healthier and fitter through initiatives like the 30x30 challenge where everyone is asked to exercise 30min each day for 30 days. Happiness statements can now be found all over the city, online and offline, to motivate people. There is a Happiness Street, Happiness customer centers (Government Bodies), and Happiness Patrols (Police).
In order to ensure that the steps and measures taken are effective and efficient, peoples happiness needs to be regularly measured. This is also important because people tend to easily take things for granted like good customer service - which is why new and upgraded services have to be constantly launched to keep people happy in the long term!
Where do horses come in this agenda?
Horses have since thousands of years been connected to us humans, and especially in the Arab world the bond has been a strong one, due to the fact that harsh climatic conditions have bonded both species.
There are studies showing that being around horses can help lower our heart rates and that people feel good in the presence of horses, for example this study where the mere presence of the horse helped to lower the heart rate of the participants without touching the horse.
There is little explanation why this prey animals, which is really of no immediate use to us anymore since we have invented cars and thus no longer need them for transport or war, still plays such an important role on our planet and has not been extinct. On the contrary, the numbers of horses are consistently growing and now estimated to be around 60 million worldwide.
Through spending mindful time with these animals, we can become more aware of ourselves, lower stress levels, spend quality time in nature without speaking much but relying on our emotions and senses, and thus increase happiness levels.
The same does not always happen in the equestrian world - although many riders were drawn in the first place to horses to work on their personality, unfortunately the majority of equestrian centers still foster an atmosphere of competition, proving right, old leadership styles of dominance and fear based subjugation and many other human traits that are not beneficial to achieving true inner happiness.
It is our responsibility to work out these problems and create true happy riding centers where the real connection between people and animals is seen more valuable than pride and domination as well as pain inflicted methods of control.
These are old fashioned tactics which need to be urgently replaced with positive, forward thinking methods that take into account the physical and emotional needs of horses.
Only then can horses fulfill their potential to help us humans evolve.
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