Our happiness levels need to be maintained throughout the year, but it’s more important than ever to keep them in check during the coronavirus lockdown. The IE Center for Health, Well-being & Happiness is hosting Happiness Week, a series of online events that will help you to stay positive during this complex time.

What is happiness?

At first glance, this question has no straightforward answer. And at second glance, nothing really changes! Happiness is an abstract concept, which means it’s hard to pin down a concrete definition for it. It’s a state of mind, something we feel—but feelings and emotions are often hard to describe and they change a lot, even over the period of one single day.

However, happiness has generally been described as being in the intersection of meaning and pleasure by Tal Ben-Shahar, an internationally renowned professor of positive psychology. It means that it’s a balance between doing things we enjoy or experiencing positive emotions such as joy, gratitude, amusement, interest or serenity, and having a sense that our lives are progressing toward our goals—that we are making a difference.

As you probably already know, the beauty of happiness lies in the eye of the beholder, meaning that it’s incredibly sensitive to context. That’s why it’s generally recommended to look at whether we are happy ourselves! Indeed, what makes one person happy may not satisfy another. This boils down to our own individual needs, how we were raised, life experiences and even our genetics. Perhaps for you, happiness is spending time with your family, long winter runs, or daily meditation. Maybe it’s setting up your own business, picking up a new challenge, painting, baking, or helping others. Whatever it is, it’s important to ensure you get enough of it to help you live a truly fulfilling and ultimately happy life.

How do we know when we’re happy?

Scientifically, happiness stems from our body’s neurotransmitters. These are little chemical messengers which transmit signals across synapses all over our bodies, from one neuron to another neuron or cell.

We feel joy when two specific neurotransmitters, dopamine and serotonin, which can be found in our brain, are released throughout our bodies. Dopamine is in charge of mood and muscle movement, while also working with the brain’s pleasure and reward system. Similarly, serotonin regulates the digestive system, which explains why over 90% of it can be traced to our guts.

Essentially, when you’re feeling bouncy, over the moon or warm and fuzzy inside, it’s because your brain has received a signal to let these chemicals run free around your Central Nervous System, by extension lifting your mood.

Why is happiness so important?

According to the World Health Organization, 10-to-20 percent of children and adolescents worldwide experience mental health disorders. That’s 10-to-20 percent too many.

Universities are taking this situation very seriously. The rapid advance of technology and the media, combined with increased pressure on students surrounding grades and results, has seriously impacted young people’s ability to maintain an optimal performance during their time at university. It has therefore never been more important to focus on your health, well-being, and happiness, even when you feel like you may not have the time or energy to do so.

So, what is the IE Center for Health, Well-being & Happiness?

A lot of us aren’t quite sure how to look after our body, mind, or soul. We’re never explicitly taught how to, and we often grow up neglecting the best practices to nurture ourselves, especially during times of stress.

All too often, we place emphasis on academic performance, such as maths and the sciences, or economics and English. While these subjects are extremely relevant and important, emotional intelligence, self-awareness, resilience, and stress management are all equally as crucial in the increasingly fast-paced and digitalized world we live in. Knowing how to live healthily, thoughtfully, and happily can prevent us from getting caught up in the modern-day rat race, which can be exhausting and stressful.

The IE Center for Health, Well-being & Happiness believes that well-rounded individuals are not only academically gifted, but that they also have a profound knowledge and understanding of various life skills. Therefore, the Center makes practical and sustainable educational programs available to everyone at IE University, with the aim of helping them to achieve their maximum potential, both personally and professionally. The aspiration is that if you learn how to look after yourself, you will be able to more skillfully look after the lives and aspirations of others.

Happiness Week at IE University

It may come as a surprise to you that Friday March 20th marks the International Day of Happiness, which is celebrated every year on this date. The day was founded in 2006 by Jayme Illien, Global CEO of the United Nations New World Order project, which is an international initiative to achieve sustainability and the happiness, well-being and freedom of life on earth. It was inspired by the Kingdom of Bhutan, the only country in the world to measure Gross National Happiness—GNH.

In accordance with this, we’re rolling out different sessions, chosen and organized by the Center’s Student Advisory Board, to give you a glimpse into how to equip yourself with the skills you need to truly look after your well-being and happiness.

Due to the outbreak of the coronavirus, we have unfortunately been obliged to cancel some of our live events, and move others to an online format. Please check out our campus group to see which ones you can attend remotely.

It’s time to put yourself first—you won’t regret it.