~ The Happiness Event, October 10 ~

By Bart van der Meijden of MHF

Mental Health Foundation (MHF) is proud to present the first edition of the Happiness Event, in honour of International World Mental Health Day.

You’re welcome to join us on Thursday, October 10, from 4:30 to 8:00, at Philipsburg Cultural and Community Centre for an evening filled with performances, music by Mixmaster Pauly & MC Elektra, food and drinks, interactive happiness games and quizzes and an hourly raffle where you can win amazing prizes.

Alright, but what is happiness? A variety of organisations joined us to answer that question (here and at the event) all focusing on their area of expertise. We’ll start with APAP/Inspired to go over what mental happiness is: When you smile all the time? When you feel oh so gooood?

Yes, in general, you could say that happiness is a state of pleasure and general satisfaction with one’s current situation. That means that it is not a long-lasting feature or personality trait, but more a changeable state that can vary per moment and intensity.

To understand this feeling, we should take a closer look inside our brain. We have certain chemicals in the brain that are called neurotransmitters, which influence how we feel. Four of those are responsible for our happiness. Dopamine gives a boost of pleasure, Serotonin makes you feel significant or important, Oxytocin creates the desire for intimacy and trust, and lastly, Endorphin reduces pain!

That’s good stuff, huh? Simply said, if these “good juices” flow, you’ll get a happy feeling! So, how do we release those chemicals then?

We are born with a particular set of chemicals (and thus the range of happiness) rooted in our DNA (individual happiness set-point so to say). That doesn’t mean that we don’t have any influence on it, but it’s good to take into account that some people might have to work a bit harder, or might need some help to get there.

It does not make you weaker; it’s just how you are “wired”! Researchers in the field mention that the ability to live a happy life is 50% determined when you are born (so your DNA), 10% through the events that you encounter in your life, but also for 40% by your own actions and thus under personal control. Good to know right? So, what can we do to boost our own happiness?

One of the things you can do to boost your happiness is investing in your physical health. We’ll dive into this topic with Dietitian Berit Bus and FireFitGym. Staying fit physically can be hard. As we grow older, we often become so busy that we take our physical health for granted.

It is good to remember that better physical health brings happiness and happiness brings better physical health. So, ask yourself: “Am I really too busy to be happy?”

Luckily, there are many easy things you can do to improve your physical health and give yourself a happiness boost!

As you might have guessed already, becoming physically active and getting involved in sports and games are great ways to release dopamine and endorphins and thus to boost your happiness.

Your happiness could also be on your plate! So make sure to eat the right foods. Light foods, but also nutritious, help you stay active all day! For example, berries can reduce depression. Quinoa is known to have an anti-depressant effect on people and nuts are high in magnesium, which can help manage stress and anxiety.

Also, happiness is infectious. Did you ever notice that for example when somebody gives you a big smile, you cannot help but smile back? We’ll discuss the social aspect of happiness with K1-Britannia and American University of the Caribbean (AUC) School of Medicine.

We’re social creatures and helping others makes us happy too. Research shows that finding purpose beyond yourself, and close social ties are one of the most important boosters of our Happiness! Volunteering is a great example. You connect with the community and give something back to it.

Additionally, you gain experience, self-esteem and create a stronger social network! “Knowing that regardless of what tomorrow brings, you have a support system in place to be able to overcome any obstacle.”

As mentioned in the beginning, happiness is a state, so all these happiness boosts are temporary. However, we want to be happy all the time, so how can you arrange your life in a way that you’ll be happy as much as possible? For that, we’ll go into lifestyle happiness with Windward Islands Bank (WIB) and Positive Foundation.

Studies show that your home is a significant factor in your happiness! Despite what people might think, it’s not about the size or location, but more about pride, comfort, safety and control.

So, rearrange and update your home to your current needs, invite people in, and most importantly: Put your own stamp on it! Lifestyle happiness is also about mindset: Get absorbed in challenging activities, set and meet goals, and try to see the glass as half-full. “Stop and smell the roses!”

Luckily, there are far more things you can do to boost your own happiness. If you like to find out what those are, come to the Happiness Event on October 10, because who doesn’t want to be happy?