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OP-132 Neurobiological bases underlying ‘happiness toolkit’ to promote self-care in children
  1. Tejas Avinash Sawant1,
  2. Professor Farhana Sharif2,
  3. Professor Farhana Sharif3,
  4. Professor Farhana Sharif4
  1. 1School of Medicine, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Dublin, Ireland
  2. 2Department of Paediatrics, Mullingar Regional Hospital, Co. Westmeath, Ireland
  3. 3Clinical Professor of Paediatrics, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Dublin, Ireland
  4. 4Clinical Associate Professor of Paediatrics, University College Dublin, Ireland


Aim An alarming increase in mental health concerns among children represents the new paradigm in paediatrics. Holistic and timely interventions at the primary care level have the potential to alleviate these problems. In order to address this issue, a ‘Happiness Toolkit’ comprising six evidence-based strategies was developed to help children and their families engage in positive mental health practices. We aim to outline here the neurobiological bases, specifically neuroanatomical mapping, neurotransmitter profile and synaptic activity, underlying these strategies of the Happiness Toolkit.

Abstract OP-132 Figure 1

Happiness Toolkit: self care strategies for patients and their families.

Material and Method We conducted an extensive literature review of peer-reviewed articles, scientific press articles and neuroscience reference books to collate information on the neurobiological bases underlying our Happiness Toolkit. We used sources written in English and published after 2000.

Results Our Happiness Toolkit comprises the following six strategies: smiling a vision, social relatedness, mindfulness, gratitude, positive physical contact and emotional intelligence (figure 1). Each of these simple yet effective strategies activates or deactivates specific areas of the central nervous system and unleashes a complex cascade of neurotransmitters. These have multipronged downstream effects on synaptic activity and plasticity which modulate behaviour. Serotonin and dopamine are the key neurotransmitters associated with happiness and are upregulated directly or indirectly by the strategies in the Happiness Toolkit. Other neurotransmitters such as mu-opioids, oxytocin and GABA are also involved in these pathways. Furthermore, from the neuroanatomical perspective, the interactions between the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala as well as the vagus nerve and the autonomic nervous system help facilitate the positive benefits of these self-care strategies. We reviewed and highlighted such complex cascades and interactions to aid patients and clinicians.

Conclusions We reviewed the neuroanatomy and neurotransmitter profile underlying the strategies in our Happiness Toolkit. This evidence-based explanation would help patients, parents and medical professionals improve mental healthcare and therefore physical healthcare outcomes.

  • Happiness Toolkit
  • Neurotransmitters
  • Neuroanatomy
  • Synaptic transmission
  • Mental Health

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