A different kind of happy hour

By Gina Olivieri

I recently got interested in positive psychology. What’s that? Think of it as the study of the stuff you can do to be happier, the stuff that makes life better, rather than mainstream psychology which focuses on defining and fixing mental illness.

Positive psychology is interested in positive interventions – things you can do to be happier and have better well-being – that are often remarkably simple.

It occurred to me recently that although I have a major depressive disorder – which I manage with medication, talk therapy and careful choices of what I demand of my body and brain – I am actually also really happy. And I think that’s really rad.

I am deliberately and excessively open about my condition because stigma around mental health absolutely must end. It is isolating, confusing and shame-inducing. It cuts us off from potential sources of support and leaves us vulnerable to further distress and harm. I got to wondering how much easier it would be to manage depression if close, easily accessed resources – like neighbours – were more commonly called upon in our hour of need.

It got me wondering why we don’t spend more time talking about the things that help us cope and be resilient in times of stress and sadness.

And so I created The Happy Hour.

Every week I host a one-hour event in my living room, with any neighbours who care to join in. At The Happy Hour we get to know one another, talk about our experiences of happiness, share our wisdom, listen, and explore ways to be happier.

The group is in its infancy, but I hope in time we also become a source of support for one another. Having a hard time? How can the group help? Maybe Penny can meet up with you for a walk. Maybe I can cook you a few meals. Maybe Fran can teach you to meditate. Maybe you’d feel good sinking your hands into the earth and doing some gardening with Nonie. Maybe a cup of tea with Michael is what you’d like.

By tapping into the resources and strengths literally at our doorsteps, I hope to ease the burden of my neighbours in times of need and increase our resilience, well-being and ultimately make the neighbourhood happier.

Would a Happy Hour work in your neighbourhood?

Why not give it a try?

Gina was part of the organising team for Neighbour Day in her Neighbourhood, and the Tell Us Your Story winner for Tasmania. She runs Hobby Exchange in her Neighbourhood, which is how The Happy Hour began.