Let’s welcome together the Vernal Equinox—the event marking the arrival of the astronomical spring in the Northern Hemisphere! At this moment, the sun is located directly on the celestial equator, approximately 12 hours above the horizon and 12 hours below the horizon. The equinoxes on that day have been tracked with a fairly high degree of accuracy by a number of ancient cultures and civilizations that have used the sun in their architectural creations: monuments, temples, and buildings serving as calendars. El Castillo Pyramid in Chichen Itza, Mexico; Stonehenge in Wiltshire, UK; Angkor Wat Temple in Siem Reap, Cambodia; Mnajdra Megalithic Temple Complex in Malta; and Hovenweep Castle in Southeastern Utah, USA, are just a few of these creations.
The Vernal Equinox is better known in Bulgaria as the First Spring. It is often traditionally honoured by locals a few days later, on March 25th, along with the major Christian Church holiday Blagoveshtenie (Annunciation). There are several superstitious folklore rituals linked to this celebration, including: waking up early to start the day so that the upcoming year is favourable to you; sweeping the floors of the house and burning the collected garbage to get rid of the bad energy and spirits that might have been around you; bringing a gold or silver coin in your pocket to ensure a prosperous year; carrying a piece of bread with you so that there is always food on the table for your family; etc. This is the day when most Bulgarians declutter their homes of all the unnecessary possessions they own. Gardeners are preparing flower beds, planting trees, and planting fresh herbs. The traditional festive meal served in every home includes: peppers stuffed with walnuts, onion pie, fresh nettle soup, parsley and dill salad, walnut and dried fruit bread, and, of course, fish—grilled or boiled.
Today is the day to let go of all negative emotions and mark a fresh new beginning. By no chance, it was also designated the International Day of Happiness. Although it started being celebrated quite recently, it is rapidly gaining popularity worldwide. It was launched in the Kingdom of Bhutan during the sixty-sixth session of the United Nations General Assembly on July 12, 2012, called “Happiness and Well-Being: Defining a New Economic Paradigm”. March 20th was then officially declared the UN’s International Day of Happiness and Prosperity. Bhutan became world famous at the beginning of the 1970s for its unconventional measure of national development: Gross National Happiness (GNH).
Bhutan has four pillars of GNH: effective governance; sustainable socioeconomic development (equitable society, free health care, and education); the preservation and promotion of the country’s cultural identity; and the protection of the environment and natural resources for future generations.
In his book The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World, Eric Weiner, a foreign correspondent for the US National Public Radio, shares:
In a nutshell, Gross National Happiness seeks to measure a nation’s progress not by its balance sheet but rather by the happiness—or unhappiness—of its people. It’s a concept that represents a profound shift from how we think about money and satisfaction and the obligation of a government to its people.
In Bhutan, this day is celebrated with meditation. Here’s how other countries around the globe celebrate happiness:
- Even in the very first year following its declaration, i.e., on the International Day of Happiness in 2013, there were quite a few celebrations scheduled around the world, including: the broadcast of the documentary Happy in cafés; laughter yoga practices held in Hong Kong; and flash mob performances that took place around London.
- The UN created the platform 24hoursofhappiness.com to raise funds for humanitarian campaigns. It proved to be a great success. More than 300 people from all corners of the Earth joined the initiative by dancing in a truly happy way to the song “Happy” by Pharrell Williams. They created a 24-hour performance that was broadcast online and enjoyed by millions.
- Norway, Switzerland, Denmark, Iceland, and Finland, which, according to the World Happiness Report, still lead the national happiness rankings, annually organize a variety of local initiatives to support this holiday.
- At the end of March 2023, in Miami Beach, Florida, the World Festival of Happiness will be held. This 9-day annual celebration features a number of seminars, workshops, and informal gatherings that aim to help participants build experiences that will help them enjoy life.
The Medical University of Varna has also been celebrating the International Day of Happiness (20.03) since 2016, with the publication of the book Happiness, Quality of Life, and Well-Being, written by Assoc. Prof. Desislava Vankova. Here’s her recipe for happiness that she shared with us just a few hours before the International Day of Happiness.
March 20th, 2023, also marks the beginning of a joint initiative between the Publishing Department and the Department of Social Medicine and Health Care Organization at MU-Varna in honour of the 60th anniversary of the department and the UN’s International Day of Happiness. We are glad to invite you to join it by sending colorful and cheerful drawings of yours, accompanied by positive messages. This should be done no later than May 24th! The “happiest” entries will be included in a book that participants can receive as a Christmas present. Read more about the initiative on the website of Medical University Press.
3 Tips to Boost Your Mood and Make You Feel Happier Today
How Does Our Body Respond to Happiness, and How Does Happiness Improve Our Quality of Life?
There are four major happy chemicals whose synthesis is regulated by the limbic system in the cerebrum. They are in charge of different aspects of the pleasant feelings that overwhelm us when we are genuinely happy:
Dopamine: This neurotransmitter is responsible for the sensation of pleasure. It is usually synthesized when we have achieved success or conquered a new goal.
Oxytocin: The bonding hormone. It is triggered by our trust and affection for a friend or family member.
Serotonin: It can be defined as the hormone of harmony because it is a great mood regulator. Its levels increase when we feel valued and acknowledged.
Endorphin: Appears in extreme situations, often when we laugh or do something pleasant for ourselves. It can also be used as a self-generated pain relief. Endorphins are responsible for the pleasant, warm sensation we get when we are joyful.
Any thought, intention, or action associated with an increase in the listed neurotransmitters or hormones could lead to feelings of happiness. Research in the field of health and happiness prove that c ommunication and the quality of interpersonal relationships; activities related to helping and feeling useful; an optimistic approach towards life; a well-developed health system; and the humane attitude of doctors and health workers towards patients are all protective determinants of happiness, and thus of the quality of life related to health. [Vankova, D. Happiness, Quality of Life, and Well-Being, Varna Medical University Press, 2016. 152 p.]
Learn more on the topic from the interview of MU-Vi TV, with Prof. Desislava Vankova from the Department of Social Medicine and Health Care Organization at MU-Varna, dedicated to the International Day of Happiness
Remember that being happy is a human right worth celebrating!