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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

Dubai happiness business is service with smile

Demand for corporate laughter and happiness workshops and seminars has increased since Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, announced the national goal to “achieve people’s happiness” in his Dubai 2021 report in 2014.
Jo-Dee Walmsley, chief executive of Simply Laughter, at the Citadel Tower in Business Bay in Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National
Jo-Dee Walmsley, chief executive of Simply Laughter, at the Citadel Tower in Business Bay in Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National

Jo-Dee Walmsley has good reason to be cheerful – her skills are in big demand as the nation sets signs on its goal.

DUBAI // Jo-Dee Walmsley starts out every day laughing at herself in the shower.

“I like people to start their day like I do,” Ms Walmsley said. “I start with a laughter shower.

“It’s all about self-acceptance, self-love and these are things that are so important to bringing happiness. Laughing changes your idea about yourself because if you look at life in a positive way, everything around you starts to be more positive.”

Ms Walmsley said she learnt the benefits of self-induced laughter after studying with Dr Madan Kataria, who founded of the concept of laughter yoga more than two decades ago.

“I had the honour of learning about laughter yoga through him and spent the past few years learning about other ways to use laughter in life and in business,” Ms Walmsley says. “It changed my life.”

By practising daily laughter, Ms Walmsley said she was able to start living a happy, fulfilled life and recover from a deep depression after a divorce and a severe injury. For the past four years, she has been preaching the benefits of laughter yoga and happy living through her Dubai-based company, Simply Laughter.

She says demand for her corporate laughter and happiness workshops and seminars had increased since Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, announced the national goal to “achieve people’s happiness” in his Dubai 2021 report in 2014.

The country’s recent adoption of a 100-day plan for happiness and positivity, along with the appointment of a Minister of Happiness this year, has only bolstered the popularity of corporate happiness training, says Ms Walmsley and other experts in the corporate wellness field.

“I’ve got a lot of bookings coming up – and a lot of big bookings. People are booking me for like 400, 1,000 people,” she said. “People now are definitely looking for where they can find happiness.”

Another happiness programme in Dubai is run by Rabea Nawaz and Ayesha Wakkas, who aim to achieve a joyous state of mind by combining body fitness with mind/life coaching and corporate consultancy.

When the team arrives at a client’s office, they ask the employees to get up and perform some fitness and dance movements.

“Research has shown over and over, if you have a healthy lifestyle you will release your happy hormones, if you are active, you are busy, focusing on your own wellness,” says Ms Wakkas, who has been a fitness instructor and reiki master for years.

Using Miss Nawaz’s extensive experience with corporate culture where, she says, “people are super unhappy”, the pair decided to team up and started a company with the mission to spread happiness through a body-mind combo workshop offered to companies, individuals and even children.

“Another focus is empowering women,” Miss Nawaz said. “Every woman has a hero model story. But when she says her own story she will downplay it,” said Mrs Wakkas said. “And some of them had never told their story before. Then we said ‘now do your business model plan with that mindset’.”

Linda Chaccour, the founder and happiness consultant at Emerge Coaching, said there has definitely been an increase in business as corporations and individuals sought to meet the goals of the national agenda.

“The visibility has increased, so I’m having more and more talks about happiness,” said Mrs Chaccour, from Dubai. “I go and talk happiness in companies, in organisations, even small talks for 30 or 45 minutes, maybe just to show some strategies that they could start applying at work.”

For companies looking for a more intensive happiness programme, Mrs Chaccour has devised a quiz and workshops ranging from a few hours to eight weeks.

“The trend now is companies are giving this happiness quiz to their employees to see how happy they are in general and then we as a company produce a small report – like who’s happy, who’s not happy, who can use an intensive programme, who could use a small workshop,” Mrs Chaccour said. “Based on that they take some initiatives in the workplace. It falls beautifully with the vision of Dubai and making it a happier place. What I do is a small part, but it falls with the vision.”

rpennington@thenational.ae

hdajani@thenational.ae