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The future of happiness - from mindfulness in schools to listening to your gut
We take a look at the trends that will affect how we stay happy in the future.

FROM WELLBEING RETREATS to mental health days to positivity workshops, it’s fair to say that many of us have never been more intent on being happy.

No longer is happiness just about your mood – it’s a whole-body approach linked to a myriad of factors including exercise, diet, relationships and sleep. But what will being happy mean in 10 years’ time? 

This week sees the start of Science Week 2021 (November 7 – 14), with the focus being on Creating Our Future. Creating Our Future is calling on everyone to submit an idea – no matter how big or small – which they believe should be explored by researchers to create a better future. With that in mind, we’re looking at research and new innovations relating to happiness and what it might look like in a decade.  

1. Mindfulness will become a bigger part of all our lives – even for schoolkids

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If you’ve ever felt anxious or overwhelmed, it’s likely you’ll have been recommended to try mindfulness. Mindfulness has many slightly varying definitions, but ultimately can be summed up as the “basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us”.

The benefits of mindfulness are plentiful, from improving focus and emotional regulation to reducing anxiety and stress. With anxiety among school children in Ireland on the rise due to family issues and standardised tests, according to research by the UCD School of Education, it makes sense that the practice is being introduced in the classroom. 

The Mindful Teachers Association Ireland aims to help with this, with courses available to train teachers across the country in mindfulness. A number of these courses have been developed by UK-based charity Mindfulness in Schools Project, with an estimated 540,000 children in the UK having benefitted from them.

In Ireland, there’s also the A Lust For Life Schools Programme, which piloted in 2020 and aims to build resilience, increase wellbeing and enhance the emotional literacy of 5th and 6th class school children by using a Netflix-style platform. 

With mindfulness and its benefits being introduced to children as young as three years, there is a great possibility that the next generation may be better at managing stress and anxiety than their predecessors. Aaaand breathe.

2. Gut health will have even greater importance 

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Gut health has become something of a hot topic in recent years – and research is only continuing to improve. “Your gut microbes are involved in regulating your mood,” says Orla O’Sullivan, Principal Investigator at APC Microbiome Ireland, SFI Research Centre and Senior Research Officer at Teagasc Food Research Centre at Teagasc Moorpark.

“What we’ve discovered is that the gut plays a huge role in human health. Your gut microbes are involved in digestion, harvesting energy and immunity but also in mood regulation. Having a ‘gut feeling’ and getting ‘butterflies in your tummy’ are examples of the link between your gut and your mood.” 

This is an “exciting” discovery, says Orla, because it’s possible to alter the makeup of the gut microbiome. “Every aspect of modern lifestyles play a role in shaping our microbiome, whether good or bad. Diet, exercise, smoking, antibiotics, medications all play a role. The more knowledge we gain, the more knowledge we have on how we can manage the makeup of our microbiome.”

However, what is still unknown is the “specific combination of microbes that make your gut healthy,” says Orla. With huge developments in gut health research over the past several years, discovering or getting closer to this combination may be likely over the next decade.

“What we do know is that diversity is key – the more types of microbes that you have, the more functions your microbiome can perform. It’s like the players on a rugby team. What you want is to have a range of different types of players on your team. You don’t want every player to be an outhalf.”

3. Mood-tracking technology could be commonplace

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You might use a smartwatch to count your steps or remind you to get moving, but what about a device that helps track your mood? Products like the Amazon Halo band, which uses voice recognition tech to analyse your mood, or the crowdfunded Upmood watch (dubbing itself “the first live motion detection wearable”) are just two examples of how technology can be used to analyse your emotions. 

And the numbers show just how much of a hit devices like this are. A record-breaking 527 million wearables were sold in 2020, up from 384 million in 2019 while, according to research by Statista, revenue from wearable device sales worldwide is forecast to amount to around $73.27 billion by next year.

With hundreds of mood tracking apps on the App Store, and the existing popularity of smart watches for tracking fitness levels and sleep quality, devices like Halo and Upmood are only set to improve their technology and presence in the marketplace in the next decade. 

Whether you’re already a pro at looking after yourself and your mood or you’ve a long way to go when it comes to maintaining your happiness, research and technology will undoubtedly be key players in maximising our happiness in the future.

Have an idea that could help make a better future for Ireland? Submit it to, Ireland’s biggest brainstorm.

Science Week runs from November 7 to 14, and it’s your chance to learn something new, and celebrate the role of science in our everyday lives. See the full lineup of free Science Week events and workshops at, from wildlife workshops to coding classes.

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