The World Happiness Report +21 has been released (here). South Africa finds itself at #76, an improvement by 2 places on the 2019 edition. The main poll is outsourced to Gallup and is curated by universities in the USA, Canada, and UK.
In these COVID-19 times, I wonder what an improvement in the Happiness Index reveals to us? I know the progress is slight, up to 76th, from 78th place in 2019, but with hard lockdowns and our favourite vices banned all over, I had expected a more negative outlook (especially from outraged smokers! LoL)
One important aspect has been the major element in COVID-19 policy: physical distancing or self-isolation, that has posed a significant challenges for people’s social connections, vital for their happiness. In the Happiness Poll,
• People whose feeling of connectedness fell had decreased happiness, as did people whose sense of loneliness increased and whose social support was reduced.
• Many positive features of a person’s life helped to protect their sense of connectedness. These included gratitude, grit, prior connections, volunteering, taking exercise, and having a pet. It also helped to have activities that provided ‘flow.’ And faith provides an anchor for the body, mind and soul.
• Likewise, there were negative features that weakened a person’s protection. These included prior mental illness, a sense of uncertainty, and a lack of proper digital connections. Clearly, digital connection is vital, and many people have been helped by digital programmes promoting faith practices.
Church may be an anchor in times like this. “Church” being the Body Corporate. The Body of Christ. “Church” as a community. And the symbols of faith, like breaking bread and drinking wine and prayer. These actions kept us connected; but not because of them but rather because we made the effort to connect.
Last week we had some friends over for a braai. We hadn’t seen them for ages (maybe three years). But making the effort to connect re-established connection. Like the coals of the braai we shared. Separate them, and the fire grows cold; bunch the coals together and their combined heat creates more heat than the individual coals on their own.
It is worth making the effort, because the community of faith glows hotter together.
Our focus is still on the Season of Easter. We have been exploring how Easter remains real for us today. On Sunday 2 May, we celebrate the monthly Eucharist. Our Scripture from Luke 24 starts with the Thomas story, Thomas who wants to see the Christ-wounds. It ends with the two disciples going to Emmaus and seeing Christ in the sharing of a meal; in the breaking of bread; in their connection; in the Body Corporate. For us today, Christ is still to be found there.
May 2021 continue to be the unveiling of your happiness; and may the community of God’s faithful be the catalyst for resurrection-joy.
2 May 2021