Dr Deena Elsori is the Associate Dean of Student Affairs at Abu Dhabi University’s College of Health Sciences. Dr. Deena achieved several significant milestones and credited for being a top-performing Professor with excellent team leadership capabilities, constantly instilling a plethora of knowledge in students. Her accolades included achieving the distinguished faculty teaching and service awards several times throughout her career at Abu Dhabi University. Before joining Abu Dhabi University, Dr. Deena was a postdoctoral fellow at the Cleveland Clinic, Ohio, United States. Her research focused on studying pathways that contribute to the progression of chronic inflammation and heart disease. Currently her research interest focuses on public health and she has become an advocate for wellbeing and health promotion in the UAE.
I believe a healthy individual is the cornerstone of a healthy society. Wellbeing is often an underestimated aspect of our day, especially with the modern lifestyle which puts immense physical and mental demands on us, trapping us into unhealthy and stressful habits. Now more than ever, we have to emphasize individual wellbeing as the bedrock on which our nation’s public health is built.
Universities have an instrumental role in educating young minds and providing students with the knowledge, skills, and values that enable them to thrive, reach their potential and contribute to society. However traditionally schools and universities have focused on academic success, knowledge acquisition and preparing students for the world of work, rather than developing individuals as a whole.
Four years ago, we introduced a new course called “Introduction to Happiness and Positive Psychology” to our students. The main objective of our happiness course is to provide an understanding of advances in positive psychology, wellbeing and happiness in order to enable students to understand the real-life applicability and how positive psychology strategies can enable individuals to reach their highest potential. This course has been developed to support the mission of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President for the UAE to become the happiest country in the world and to integrate happiness and positivity as a lifestyle, a government commitment and a spirit uniting the UAE community. Abu Dhabi University has committed to do this by incorporating happiness and positivity as part of the public health curriculum.
At the College of Health Sciences, we are encouraging our students to use a rounded approach to acquiring knowledge. In addition to demonstrating the influence and impact of psychological wellbeing to successful learning and focusing on the skills that cultivate the love of learning such as accomplishment and positive social interactions. Therefore, students can not only excel in their major but understand how to enhance their focus, motivation and capacity to learn across other subjects.
Different courses in our public health program focus on the core components of happiness & positive psychology by focusing on the positive side of human nature and the most effective ways to for individuals to thrive, flourish and become their best. By examining, the latest evidenced based scientific research on well-being we cover topics such as Strength, optimism, appreciation & gratitude, positive communication, positive relationships, connections, self-compassion, kindness, creativity, flow, motivation and goal setting – becoming your best self. In addition, our courses are largely experiential and includes several activities, interaction, group activities and practical homework.
The UAE has high values for all six of the key variables that have been found to support well-being and happiness: income, healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom, trust and generosity. The UAE is truly a multi-cultural happiness hub, where individuals and groups have the freedom to pursue their dreams without compromising their values or backgrounds. I believe this to be truly key in this unique environment, being a safe and advanced culture that respects everyone, rewards hard work and promotes innovation. All the research and numbers show that people from across the Earth seek to move here and make this their home for long periods of time. I know lots of families who lived in the UAE more than they resided at their own native homes. From my own experience over the past 11 years living here, and I’ve lived in and travelled to the corners of the globe, this is truly the happiest place on Earth.
As we get older, we are more accomplished and well established on who we are in society, what our role is, what we really enjoy, and generally have more control and security to avoid things that add stress to our lives. However, we need to establish such positive habits early in our life and this is our job as educators.