Causeway Coast smiles are widest on happiest day of the year

The Causeway Coast between Dunluce Castle and Portrush
The Causeway Coast between Dunluce Castle and Portrush

If you noticed more smiling faces than normal in the last few hours and wondered if you’d missed the joke, you may not have been aware that today marked the International Day of Happiness.

March 20 is the designated day when you magically gain a spring in your step and your troubles automatically lift ... unless you’re in a dentist’s waiting room watching the latest Brexit update.

Estate agent Michelle Thompson

Estate agent Michelle Thompson

Despite the UK’s messy separation from the EU, the seventh annual United Nations’ World Happiness Report ranked the United Kingdom 15th out of 156 countries, one place above Ireland – a rise of four places on the previous year’s report.

The happiest country, according to the report – for the second year running – is Finland, ahead of Denmark, Norway, Iceland and the Netherlands.

Within our wee country, a recent survey at the end of last year by the Office of National Statistics found the happiest place in Northern Ireland to be the Causeway Coast and Glens Council area.

Local estate agent Michelle Thompson concurred that the Causeway Coast was the place to be.

Comedian Micky Bartlett

Comedian Micky Bartlett

She said: “Our biggest worry around here is getting stuck behind a tractor on the way to work, if that’s all you have to worry about, sure why wouldn’t you be happy.

“What makes it such a happy place is the people and environment.

“We are more Ulster-Scots up this direction. We’re a lot more laid back.

“We’ve got everything on our doorstep – the whole Causeway Coast, Carrick-a-rede rope bridge, we’ve got the Bushmills Distillery and the Giant’s Causeway itself, the Dark Hedges and so many beautiful beaches and strands. And if you’re of a certain age you’ve got Barry’s (amusements). You can feel a real buzz in Portrush ahead of the Open.”

She noted that more people in the area were buying property inland – in areas like Ballymoney – as it offered more value for money.

Comedian Micky Bartlett was asked for his opinion on whether or not it was hard to make Northern Irish people laugh.

He said: “I think the audience here is better than most places in the world. People here have a slightly darker sense of humour. They get when you’re joking and don’t take things too seriously.”

The Lurgan-born comedian who plays his biggest solo NI date at the Ulster Hall on October 25 said it was unfair to say people in Northern Ireland were always happy as that sweeps mental health issues under the carpet.

He said: “I do think that people here are the most genuine you’ll meet, they’ll say things to your face and then you can move on and start laughing about it.”

The International Day of Happiness is celebrated worldwide every March 20. It was founded by United Nations special advisor Jayme Illien to “inspire, mobilise, and advance the global happiness”.