Mr Clive Chan, Headmaster

Mr Chan has extensive experience in teaching English to people of all ages and abilities. He returned to Hong Kong after spending years studying and working in Australia. He has taught English in different secondary schools and Business English at a university in Hong Kong.

In the recently released UN World Happiness Report in March 2019, the writers discuss some factors that affect our level of happiness, which may offer some insights as to how we lead our lives and raise our kids.

One of the contributing factors to our sense of wellbeing is generosity in terms of donating our time and money.  Researchers have found that there is a strong correlation between happiness and prosocial behavior, confirming that those who give money and do volunteer work are generally happier. 

Interestingly, while more than 60% of Hong Kong people have donated money, one of the highest among all countries, only 16.9% reported volunteering time to a charitable organization, which may explain why Hong Kong people are still one of the most unhappy among people living in developed countries.

To many of us, time is money.  It is far easier to spare a few coins than to stand a few hours selling ‘flags’ (which are actually stickers) for a charitable organization on a Saturday morning.  It has been long documented, however, that donors generally have a greater sense of satisfaction if they know who they are helping.  Volunteers have a strong sense of ownership of the cause and get to meet other like-minded compassionate people, which should in turn boost their level of happiness.  Such experience has been largely shared by hundreds of volunteer counselors at Post Crisis Counseling Network (PCCN) of which I have been the honorary advisor since its inception in 2008.

The report also discusses how digital media have caused unhappiness, depression and even suicidal ideation among adolescents.  Intriguingly, there is a negative correlation between screen time and the sense of wellbeing among respondents.  But aren’t social media helping us to connect with others so that we feel happy?

In fact, people who spend more time on the Internet report a greater sense of loneliness.  I could imagine how these people live a day even without uttering a word. They order food and have it delivered to their home by clicking a few buttons.  They write and reply to posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram rather than meeting their friends face to face.  And even if they are to meet with some friends, it is all arranged on back-and-forth messaging through WhatsApp or WeChat. 

Virtual connection with friends could also be depressive. People like posting their achievements, travels, celebrations and unique experiences on social media, which might trigger wistfulness and even gloom among those who read them. 

Social media are here to stay, and they are going to have an even bigger impact on the lives of our children.  To stay happy, I would first encourage you to have less screen time yourself.  Go for a walk or do some exercise with your kids. Better still, engage with a charitable organization and do some volunteer work together with your children. Be happy!

Yours sincerely,

Clive Chan