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Placing Happiness under a Microscope - Trinity Week Programme to investigate the Science of Happiness

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Apr 07, 2014

Trinity College Dublin will be examining, dissecting and prescribing treatments for mankind’s eternal search for happiness this week as part of Trinity Week, which runs from Monday April 7th to Friday April 11th. Academics and staff from the Faculty of Health Sciences will share with the public what science and medicine know about this elusive state through a series of events on the theme of the ‘Science of Happiness’.

The events will include symposia, lectures and talks on the science behind happiness, its influence on mental health, creating balance and the psychology of the smile. Most of the events are free and open to the public and the full programme is available at:

A highlight of the week is a public lecture by Cognitive Researcher Nancy Etcoff, Director of the Program in Aesthetics and Well-Being at the Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Psychiatry. Dr Etcoff is part of a new vanguard of cognitive researchers asking: What makes us happy? Why do we like beautiful things? And how on earth did we evolve that way? Her talk ‘Let us smile each chance we get: Neuroscience based nudges toward happiness and health’ (Thursday April 10th, 6pm, Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute), will discuss the ways we try to achieve and increase happiness and its surprising effect on our bodies. Her 2004 TED Talk on Happiness has been viewed by almost a million people.

Other highlights include an Academic Symposium on the ‘Science of Happiness’ (Wednesday 9th April, 2pm) which features talks on the science behind mindfulness, creating balance, mental health and how a person’s smile affects social interactions and how other people perceive them. A second symposium will focus on ‘Healthy Happy Ageing’ (Thursday April 10th, 10am) and features among others, renowned author and Professor of Psychology, Ian Robertson, who will talk about his research into how we can use our minds to help build its resilience against disease and injury.

Speaking about the pursuit of happiness and its understanding, Dean of the Faculty of Health Science, Professor Mary McCarron said: “Is happiness something gained from others or is it something that is successfully pursued through our own efforts? Do we experience the taste, smell and sight of good food; the joy from hearing a piece of music; the satisfaction from volunteering; the excitement of learning; as simply rises and falls in serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain? Trinity Week’s series of events will look at these questions and more and hopefully provide some answers to help people leave a little bit happier and with a greater understanding about the different sciences and expressions of happiness.”

Speaking about the importance of mental health, one of the speakers of the Trinity Week Academic Symposium on the ‘Science of Happiness’, Professor Jim Lucey, Medical Director of St Patricks Mental Health Services and Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Trinity College, Dublin said: “Positive mental health skills and attitudes are associated with greater individual wellbeing and with longer and happier life. Mental health is the resource which will empower recovery in us and in our economy. Modern neuroscience is proving the centrality of the brain in positive wellbeing. The evidence shows that human recovery is enhanced by music and dance and by song and by exercise, and by mindfulness. That is why we mustn’t wait any longer to lead mentally healthy lives. In Ireland we must not wait any longer to be happy.”

Trinity Week’s events will also include Tai Chi with Master Hyun Monk in the University’s iconic Front Square, guided walks, relaxation classes, musical performances and short films. 

The events, most of which are free and open to the public, will take place between April 7th and 11th in Trinity.  A full programme of events can be found on

For media queries please contact: Yolanda Kennedy, Press Officer for the Faculty of Health Sciences, Trinity College Dublin at or Tel: + 353 1 8963551.

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| | Last updated: April 7, 2014