Gross National Happiness

I hope you are OK with the announcement of Stage 4 restrictions in Melbourne. My blog’s original tagline was ‘living la vida local’ and we are about to get very local with us all having to shop and exercise within 5 kilometres of our homes. Harry Hindsight has 20/20 vision as they say but part of me was a bit baffled as to why we didn’t go straight to stage 4 when we went into our second lockdown – in for a penny…

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I know it has been a balancing act with people’s livelihoods and mental health at stake and will continue to be until a vaccine is found and perhaps, beyond that too – we were living in a time of great disruption before COVID-19 and if you can live with more of a ‘disruptive era’ mindset rather than wanting to ‘go back to normal’, it may be more helpful. I am on a culture committee at work where we have been trying to live the values we espouse of care, connection, innovation and accountability and incorporating these systemically in our business practice. We changed up our ‘Christmas in July’ celebration to ‘Hotter in July’ last week as we wanted to be more inclusive allowing our multicultural team to celebrate with festive clothing and decorations individual to them. Our Hotter in July online pop quiz is running a bit late but will happen this week. It did lift my spirits to hang some Chinese paper lanterns up especially at night in the glow of my living room.

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With the pivot to online, we have created a ‘3 questions with’ video series with those who opted in to participate. It’s a quick and dirty of the celebrity version you may have seen called ‘73 questions with Vogue‘ and it’s been a fun way to show care and keep us all connected when we can’t be in the office all together. The innovation has come with me having to learn basic video editing skills interviewing 4 of my fellow staff members with the committee releasing two videos (or screencasts as they call them) per week from now until Spring.

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Wellbeing and mental health have also been at the forefront of my mind. It was important before the global pandemic to consider our collective happiness and wellbeing. I’ve often thought Bhutan’s example of Gross National Happiness as a measure of their society says and means so much more than Gross Domestic Product used in western economies like ours which seems so impersonal and inhuman – yes we produce goods and services but it is the people of our country who do this. This week I’ve been working with a Psychology graduate to produce a mindfulness meditation video for our alumni audience and have also brokered a meeting between La Trobe and Smiling Mind as we have a number of alumni who work for the organisation including its co-founder James Tutton. My son’s school had a Wellbeing Day last week and La Trobe University staff will also have a Wellbeing Day later this month. Indeed, August will have a wellbeing focus in general at work for all sorts of reasons and I’m glad there is less stigma associated with mental health – it’s just as important as physical health and both are linked – something that my lifelong yoga practice has so clearly defined – the union between mind and body.

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A number of companies are doing care packages¬† or online gifts for their staff and at an individual level, there’s an online service called Cardly who will post a card of your choice with a personalised message from you to your family and friends. I have used Jacob and Roy to send plants as gifts and I also love Bindle‘s Australian boutique gift hampers. I realise not everyone can afford this and it is the thought that counts – you may want to consider Angel Next Door Community if you’re in a position to help another person in your local area through your actions.

There has been commentary about the chasm between rich and poor in Melbourne which COVID-19 has brought to the fore- while it was initially the wealthy bringing the virus into Australia from international travel it is now the poorer suburbs in the north and west with the highest cases now that community transmission has happened. Those in casual work/gig economy jobs with less security have had to choose between going to work to put food on the table or missing a shift and going without. It is a great privilege to work from home and I don’t blame the people, I blame the system that allowed this to happen in the first place and this polarity needs greater consideration when time permits.

I watched our Vice Chancellor John Dewar speak on Friday at The Future of Universities¬†for the State Library Victoria 6 weeks, 6 issues series with remaining talks to cover the future of the economy, of schools and of Melbourne itself (they’ve already covered the future of work and the new normal which you can watch here). There are no easy answers and it’s not going to be easy road for any of us over the next 6 weeks but we have to stay the course – my hope is that we not only suppress but eliminate the virus if we all work together. There is no other option now but to try and walk this path together and work as a collective. Our lives are in each other’s hands.

Finally, some inspiration for the week – this mid century marvel at 24 Castle Street in Eaglemont (above all photos from realestate.com.au) has hit the market which may be of interest if you have a larger family given there aren’t a huge amount of houses that have over four bedrooms. The current owners have done a great job styling it in keeping with the feel of its era while also making it very now. I hope it goes to a family who will thoroughly appreciate and enjoy it as their ‘forever home’.

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