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Published On: Tue, Sep 17th, 2019

MHF presents Happiness Event on October 10th

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The Mental Health Foundation is proud to present the first edition of the Happiness Event! On Thursday, October 10th from 4.30 PM to 8 PM you’re welcome at the Cultural Center in town to join us for an evening filled with performances, sharing of information, food and drinks, games and entertainment and much more all of this focused on supporting your happiness!. The event is hosted by non-other than Elektra Voltage & DJ Pauly and has a free raffle to win amazing prices every hour!

We collaborated with different organizations to bring some happiness to the people of Sint Maarten, all in their own way. The focus will be on:

  1. Mental Happiness
  2. Physical Happiness
  3. Social Happiness
  4. Lifestyle Happiness

Today in this article, we will focus together with input from the Association of Psychologists and Allied Professionals St. Maarten on the part of Mental Happiness. What are we talking about exactly?

If asked what someone’s goal in life is, many people answer with “being HAPPY”! But what is that then, happiness? Enjoying life? When good things happen to you? When you smile all the time? When you feel oh so gooood? Yes, all of that are good examples of being happy, but let us try to get a better idea of what exactly makes you feel happy, and perhaps even more important: how to invest in your happiness!

In general, you could say that happiness is a state of pleasure, contentment 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. So in that sense: you cannot always be happy all the time. Good to remind yourself of every now and then! On the other hand, it is different from feeling joy or ecstasy, which are more intense feelings that often do not last very long. Lastly, an important aspect is that happiness can be felt and shown.

To understand this feeling, we should take a closer look inside our brain. Without becoming too technical hopefully: we have certain chemicals in the brain that are called neurotransmitters. And these neurotransmitters influence the way we feel. Four of those are responsible for our happiness (Dopamine, Serotonin, Oxytocin and Endorphins). Simply said: if these chemicals are released in your brain, you’ll get a happy feeling! Here some insight in them:

Dopamine gives a boost of pleasure when we accomplished something. This often works as a motivator to do that activity again. It is often described as a ‘kick’. However, when Dopamine is low, this can also mean that you are more likely to doubt yourself and procrastinate.

Serotonin makes you feel significant or important. And when this is low, you can feel lonely and depressed. It also helps regulate mood and social behaviour, appetite and digestion, sleep, memory, and sexual desire. Scientific research shows a relation between serotonin and depression.

Oxytocin creates the desire for intimacy and trust what helps to builds healthy relationships and feeling connected. This neurotransmitter is so powerful that animals will reject their offspring when the release of oxytocin is blocked, what will leave them with fewer chances to survive! You might have heard of it as the ‘cuddle’ hormone. Physical touch can help boost this hormone.

Endorphin reduces pain, and increases the release of our first neurotransmitter Dopamine, which in turn gives a pleasurable feeling.

Luckily, we can have some control over these chemicals, at least to a certain extent. For example, endorphins are released through sex eating (good) food, chocolate, or doing cardio exercises (you probably have heard of the runners high?). You can get an oxytocin boost after only hugging someone, and physical activity also has a great positive impact on the release of Dopamine!

Okay, I hear you thinking: “So, can I just decide to be happy and will that make the (good) juices flow? Or are some people born with more of these happy-chemicals then others?”. Well, both are true. These (physical) activities can indeed create happiness, but there is also a biological aspect to it. You could call that the “individual happiness set point”. We are born with a certain set of chemicals (and thus the range of happiness) routed in our DNA. This doesn’t mean that we don’t have any influence on it but is good to take into account that some people might have to work a bit harder, or might need some help (through support, counseling or medication) to get there. It does not make you weaker; it’s just how you are ‘wired’!

It is mentioned by some researchers in the field that the ability to live a happy life is determined for 50 % 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! Regularly indulging in small pleasures, getting absorbed in challenging activities, setting and meeting goals, maintaining close social ties, and finding purpose beyond oneself all increase life satisfaction and are things that you can directly invest in and might not be as difficult as you would think!

For example, something simple as smiling (even if you don’t really feel like it) can make you feel happier. By smiling, you tell your body that you are happy, which in turn will respond with sending out a happy feeling. Additionally, a smile is very contagious! Did you ever notice that for example when somebody gives you a big smile, and you cannot help to smile back? Give it a try today! Another is to train yourself in adapting a positive mindset! Imagine this: you’ve got a great idea, and all you hear are yes-buts. ‘Yes, but that’s been tried before, and it didn’t work.’ ‘Yes, but shouldn’t we just let it sit for a while?’ ‘Yes, but what if it doesn’t work …’ All those yes-buts make you feel that every attempt will be buried in a swampy morass of objections. Luckily, there’s another way: the yes-and attitude. This open-minded perspective emphasizes what CAN be done, and thereby appreciating possibilities. With this attitude, we see past the dragons to the path forward. The result? Creativity and innovation. From this point of view, the more problems we are confronted with, the better! Because you can see it as a challenge and a possibility to grow.

Luckily, there are far more things you can do to boost your own happiness! If you’d like to know what those are, come to The Happiness Event on October 10th! It starts at 4:30 at the Cultural Center in town, everyone is welcome, and the whole event (including food, drinks and the Raffle ticket) is completely free! We hope to see you there, because who doesn’t want to be happy right?!

MHF Happiness Event flyer




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