The happy crew: 30 people making life better
Want to dance? Need a hug? Or could do with some help clearing out some emotional or actual baggage? There’s a whole army of people out there to help
Staff at Barnacles hostels provide free entertainment – and hugs
Morning Gloryville, a ‘holistic early morning rave’. Photograph: Eric Luke
Peter O’Brien, the mastermind behind Happenings, a series of outdoor events such as cinema nights, yoga classes and music gigs. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Positive psychologist Jolanta Burke’s podcasts share wisdom on how to be upbeat and mentally well
The capricious weather may be playing havoc with our moods, but at least there’s one constant that keeps us feeling good during an Irish summer: people power.
In fact, a recent study by Eurostat, published in April of this year, has revealed that Irish people are officially much happier than many of their European brethren (including the UK, France and Germany), ranking the seventh happiest. Elsewhere, the World Happiness Report – factoring in life expectancy, freedom to make life choices and social support – ranked Ireland as the 18th happiest country in the world.
With big bucks in wellbeing, several folks have made it their business to keep the wheels on our good moods turning; whether it’s by running a Twitter account that brings little bursts of positivity or those helping their clients find a happy place, we’ve found several people who help us ensure that life is brimful of cheer.
1. Randy Ralston
It’s well-known that cuddles release the feelgood brain chemical oxytocin… yet when it comes to touch, some of us are left lacking. American Randy Ralston is hoping to change all that with his monthly Irish Cuddle Salon, a meet-up where people experience hugs in a strictly non-sexual way. With boundaries (and clothes) firmly in place, participants can experience cuddles and hugs on a regular basis, leaving with a hefty dose of that all important oxytocin. See meetup.com/Irish-Cuddle-Salon/ for details.
2. Breda Stack
The noble art of decluttering personal space is having something of a moment, thanks to the teachings of Maria Kando, but Irish expert Breda Stack has been helping people shed their literal baggage for years. After overcoming what she calls “personal challenges”, Stack left her IT job and started her own business in 2009, and hasn’t looked back. Instigating Ireland’s National Declutter Day, Stack is a firm believer in the therapeutic benefits of paring back. She can be found at thecluttertherapist.ie.
3. The staff at Barnacles Hostels
Whatever about free wifi, breakfast and a bunk for the night, the staff at these popular hostels in Galway and Dublin are also pretty generous when it comes to dishing out free hugs for guests. Job done on the hugging front, they also offer free walking tours, free entertainment and game nights. Get the lowdown at barnacles.ie.
4. Terry Clune It’s not often that matters relating to tax can boost spirits, but thanks to Clune’s company Taxback. com, those who access his service could well end up with a rebate if they have worked abroad in the past. As a student in Germany, Clune found himself paying a high amount of tax in Germany and applied for a rebate upon his return to Dublin. Cline started to process tax refunds for his friends, before opening 32 offices in 24 countries.
5. Edelle Notte
Notte, a Cork-based event manager and stylist, has launched the Happy Initiative and set about devising a series of regular events designed to put a spring in anyone’s step. Earlier this year, she hosted her first event in Joseph’s Hair Salon in Glasheen, Cork, where folks enjoyed a free haircut, food and hugs galore. Keep an eye on her Facebook page for information on upcoming events, as well as plenty of motivational quotes and feel-good tips.
6. Chris Flack
As the co-founder/organiser of Morning Gloryville Dublin, Flack is responsible for Dublin’s first series of holistical early-morning raves. Billed as “a place where you can dance like nobody’s watching”, Morning Gloryville encourages music fans to ditch their early morning gym routine and bop along to floor-fillers from 6.30am-10.30am once a month. Massages, juices and breakfast are also on hand for those who don’t profess to be morning people. Venues in the city centre change from month to month: see facebook.com/morninggloryvilledublin.
7. Ann Rudden
Few can dispute the feel-good qualities of great chocolate, and master chocolatier Ann Rudden (chocolate.ie) knows this more than most. Her company, Aine Hand Made Chocolate, has been making mouthwatering chocolate since 1999, and Rudden is well known for her passion for the brown stuff. Little wonder she and the company have won 21 Great Taste Awards and count Rick Stein among their devotees.
8. Trevor Clarke Wicklow-based Trevor Clarke offers energetic healing sessions to clients; a therapy that helps people tackle anxiety, worry, trauma, physical ailments and depression. After working in Australia for 14 years, Trevor returned home two years ago to open his holistic business, and he’s never been busier. See trevorclarkeenergentics.com for more information.
9. Kathy Scott/Clare Mulvany
The Trailblazery are a collective renowned for staging music performances, spoken word and experiences in unusual locations across the country. Billed as creating “TED Talks with soul”, the Trailblazery – founded by Kathy Scott and Clare Mulvany – bring life and celebration to abandoned buildings, churches, fields and forgotten spaces, creating surprising pockets of activity across the land. As to where they may pop up next, see facebook.com/thetrailblazery for information.
10. Sinead Duffy
Many people aren’t aware of the Monaghan-based life coach, but with 2.8 million followers and counting, Duffy is the proud owner of one of Ireland’s most popular Twitter accounts. Duffy reportedly counts Sarah Palin and Ryan Tubridy among her followers, and sends a number of positive quotes and uplifting messages on her @GreatestQuotes page.
Duffy gathers the words of wisdom from philosophers, authors, self-help gurus, poets and characters and then tweets them in 140 characters in the hope of giving folks a boost that day.
11. Siobhán Kavanagh
PhD student Kavanagh has made laughter – specifically, the effects of laughter yoga on people’s wellbeing – her primary research interest. The qualified laughter yoga teacher also works with the Galway Laughter Club to deliver free laughter yoga sessions, as well as NUI Galway’s exam destress programme in conjunction with the Health Promotion Department. As if that isn’t activity enough, Kavanagh also runs the Laughter Championships in Galway, designed to allow “competitors” to improve the expression of their emotions.
12. Niamh Gunn
As founder of The Well, Gunn is intent on bringing mindfulness to Ireland and providing, shelter from the mind’s storm. After experiencing burnout, trauma and grief in her own life, Gunn founded The Well, with stress release and emotional support as its modus operandi. The Well boasts a programme of events, workshops and retreats designed for the heartsick and run by well-being experts. After initially setting up camp at Liss Ard estate in its pilot stage, Gunn’s venture is on the lookout for a permanent home. Keep track of Gunn’s progress at @ngunncork
13. Dr Mark Rowe
Waterford-based GP Rowe believes modern medicine emphasises the “pill for every ill”, but strengthening the foundations of our physical and mental health is what is needed most. His one-man show, A Prescription For Happiness, highlighted the impact of negative and positive emotions when it was presented at a Waterford theatre in January.
He also appeared at this year’s UN World Happiness Day event in March, an annual initiative supported by the Dublin City Council.
14. John Evoy
Fully aware that most men would balk at the idea of a “men’s health centre”, John Evoy set up Men’s Sheds Ireland instead: a charity that encourages Irish men to gather, specialise and get stuff off their minds that they might ordinarily not feel comfortable talking about in public.
While working as a community worker, Wexford-born Evoy realised that several Irish men were grappling with challenges, and were reluctant to reach out to others. Inspired by a similar model in Australia, Men’s Sheds Ireland was created in 2009 and now counts over 170 sheds in Ireland, supporting thousands of men.
15. Phil Isard
Canadian-born Phil founded the Dublin chapter of Trade School, a collective that offers classes in subjects as diverse as knitting, Russian, essential oils, painting and writing. The opportunity to upskill is free, as it works on a “barter for knowledge” system: take a class, in other words, and pay it forward by volunteering at the school or running a different class.
16. Eileen McCarney & David Culver
Given that mindfulness is helpful for those experiencing anxiety or depression, Eileen and David offer free mindfulness meditation classes in Drogheda. For details of weekly sessions, see breathworks.ie (information on other meditation classes and workshops around the country is also available here).
17. Paul Dunphy
A recipient of this year’s Rabotweeties award for most humorous Twitter account, Paul Dunphy is the master of the 140-character comedy cracker. Follow his account @pauldunphy and enjoy regular laughs on your Twitter feed.
See also: Amy Huberman’s candid and hilarious tweets (@amyhuberman), and Colm O’Regan’s unending, ticklish stream of Irish Mammies’ wisdom (@irishmammies).
18. Fionnuala Wall
Breaking up is hard to do (and will definitely make you feel miserable)… but help of a professional shade is finally at hand. Heartbreak coach Fionnuala Wall has been guiding the lovelorn of Ireland through their relationship trials and tribulations, and is never short of sensible advice on matters of the heart.
19. Peter O’Brien
As the mastermind behind Happenings, O’Brien is has made many a sunny day in Ireland even better. Using social media, the folks at Happenings announce an open-air event in Dublin or Limerick city centre with only hours to spare. From outdoor cinema and music gigs to yoga circles and mindfulness sessions, Happenings organise something for everyone. See happenings.ie for information.
20. Jonathan Gunning
Actor/professional clown Jonathan often brings his inimitable physical comedy to festivals, events and schools across the land. In 2007, with his pal Colm O’Grady, he co-founded Clowns Without Borders Ireland, a voluntary organisation that performs and offers circus arts workshops to communities in crisis, both at home and abroad.
21. Anne-Marie Downey & Claire Gardiner
Ostensibly a self-help course for people who don’t readily warm to the idea of self-help, Kickstart is a six-week course run in Dublin’s Smithfield by Anne-Marie and Claire that helps people make changes from the inside out.
Lectures will cover areas such as the importance of diet and detox, how to make behavioural changes, and more importantly how you can sustain new, good habits. Common sense, in other words, without the tree-hugging stuff. More details can be found at dublinherablists.ie.
Providing the Dublin street art scene with a brilliant shot in the arm, stencil artist Karma (karmastreetartist.com) has been brightening the streets of Dublin, and elsewhere, since 2006. Keep an eye out for his wryly-amusing wall art; guaranteed to bring a smile to anyone’s face.
23. Christy Collard
West Cork-born artist/builder Christy ensures that the great outdoors looks even greater on his watch. Since his teens, he has been making structures from wood, and is the man behind the tree houses, pagodas, heart gardens and stages at the Body & Soul festival. His beautiful structures can see seen around the country, too: see futureforests.net.
24. The folks at Clonakilty Macra na Feirme
West Cork is renowned as an enchanting and cosy enclave, making it a rather fitting backdrop for the annual Clonakilty Random Acts of Kindness Festival. Aiming to “cut the misery and spread the positivity”, the festival celebrates community and camaraderie with a slew of music, food and street entertainment. If you want to experience the kind of weekend that raises everyone’s spirits, look no further.
25. The Dublin Favour Exchange
Skill swapping has enjoyed a boost in recent times, and the DFE have created a group of lovely folks who pool their resources for free. Members can teach a skill to others, give away belongings, or even help out with things as diverse as babysitting or moving house. In their words, “the idea is to give freely to the group just for the love it”.
26. Jolanta Burke
Positive psychologist Jolanta shares wisdom on how to be upbeat and mentally well thanks to a series of radio interviews and podcasts, all of which are available on her site jolantaburke.com. From bullying and singledom to workplace optimism and positive parenting, no stone is left unturned as Jolanta offers advice to listeners on how to be happier and healthier.
27. Dave Dunn
As the owner of Monkey Business Ireland, Dave is on a mission to get Ireland laughing. In addition to holding regular laughter workshops for schools and businesses, David also plans to organise group game nights and events across Dublin in coming months. Schools and businesses can email him at email@example.com; keep an eye on his Facebook page for details of events happening later this summer.
28. Harper’s Coffee, Limerick
Not only is Harper’s a great place to get a great cup of joe; the cafe also participates in the “suspended coffee” initiative. Based on a long-held Italian tradition of goodwill, the suspended coffee movement enables customers to buy one cup of coffee for themselves, and one for those who may not be able to afford it. More info, and a list of participating coffee shops, can be found at suspendedcoffeeireland.ie
29. Sadanand Magee
Sadanand and the team at the Sri Chinmoy centre in Dublin offer free meditation classes to anyone on the path to inner peace and happiness (see dublinmeditation.com for details, as well as info on occasional classes in Cork and Galway). The centre also works closely with Happiness In Ireland to celebrate the UN International Day of Happiness, held in March each year. See happinessinireland.com for information.
30. David Keegan & JP Swaine
We all know that minding one’s own mental health is paramount, and David & JP have turned the task into a two-week creative arts festival. Billed as Ireland’s mental-health themed arts festival, First Fortnight boasts a programme packed with film, theatre, spoken word, visual arts and spoken word, all of which address mental health issues.
In 2013, First Fortnight also established the First Fortnight Centre For Creative Therapies, which provides art therapy for people experiencing homelessness and mental ill-health. The festival happens in January, but keep an eye on their website (firstfortnight.ie) for events that happen throughout the year.