Feelgood Factor: Spreading joy is all in a day's work for these three women

It’s January and Blue Monday - the most depressing day of the year – is almost upon us.

Feelgood Factor: Spreading joy is all in a day's work for these three women

It’s January and Blue Monday - the most depressing day of the year – is almost upon us.

Esther McCarthy cheers herself up and finds three people with jobs that make us happy – from chocolatiers to parachutists.

Spreading joy is all part of their job - and those who are in the business of making others happy find that the warm glow is often reciprocated.

There really is a feel-good factor if your work involves giving a lift to somebody’s day.

Surveys have frequently indicated that those who have occupations which enhance the wellbeing of others are happiest in their jobs.

Professions such as teaching, physiotherapy and nursing often feature highly among the happiest jobs.

A CNBC Workplace Happiness poll carried out earlier this year shows that the vast majority of workers (35%) rank meaningfulness as the most important factor in their job happiness, far ahead of even salary (20%).

We spoke to three people for who spreading joy and pleasure is all part of the day job.

The Parachutist

Picture: Zan Dee Photography
Picture: Zan Dee Photography

Tony Donnelly is a director and chief parachute instructor at the Irish Parachute Club in Clonbullogue, Co Offaly.

The non-profit organisation trains skydivers and also runs tandem jumps with experienced divers, often for people who are fulfilling a bucket-list dream or jumping to raise funding for a charity.

“It’s a very rewarding job,” he says. “From our perspective every jump is different because you don’t know how the person is going to react when the door opens and they’re in freefall.

"You get a great thrill out of their reaction. Ninety nine per cent of people say: ‘That was amazing’ as we land. It’s just the thrill they get.”

He gets particular enjoyment out of spending time with groups of friends who jump together to raise funding for charities.

“You have a great bit of craic with people on the way up but when the door opens up its complete silence! A lot of charities have benefited immensely from the money that is raised.”

As jumps take place when weather conditions are good, the views are frequently breathtaking, he says.

“It’s when the parachute actually opens that it goes from a deafening roar to complete silence.

"On a clear day in Offaly you can pick out the Pigeon House Towers (Poolbeg) in Dublin and the river Shannon in the west. You can pick out The Blessington Lakes.”

Wheelchair users and others with a disability sometimes come to jump, and Tony loves that they get to do so on the same terms as anybody else.

“The people I love working with most are people who are not able bodied. A person who uses a wheelchair is the exact same as someone who is able bodied for that 20-minute jump.

"They always say it’s one of the best things they’ve ever done.

“One person I jumped with, Jennifer was her name, was a gymnast and at 17 she broke her neck.

"A year later she was doing a parachute jump for a charity. She was an amazing girl.”

The Jewellery Designer

Jenny Huston runs Edge Only, a business whose jewellery is ethically made in Ireland.

From in-love couples planning their engagement rings, to those who mark a new baby or an anniversary with a special gift, Huston has frequently felt the personal joy that comes with making someone’s day.

The former DJ in 2FM changed career path to pursue a long-held interest in jewellery design.

She works with highly trained goldsmiths, many of who learned their profession under the tutelage of Huston’s own mother, herself a goldsmith.

“It was driven by a desire to be more creative. I loved what I was doing in RTÉ but I wanted the challenge of starting a business.

"I bit off far more than I expected. I had a bit of a safety net, I had a lot of connections.

"I felt confident that there was a gap in the market but I think I underestimated it.

“Really it was an awareness that there were people like me who wanted great jewellery but a little more casual. Who designs for those people?

And I felt men were really ignored in the market, it catered for bankers and bikers but nobody in between.

“They’re all my designs, I give the goldsmiths specifications and images to back it up and we go back and forth. I design and I leave the masters to do their job because it’s very skilled and there are many tools involved.”

She still adores the buzz of seeing a stranger in the street wearing one of her designs, and the messages she gets on social media from thrilled recipients of an Edge Only gift.

“It’s increasingly satisfying now especially that there is traction. You’re constantly getting messages of delight and that’s the best thing in the world.

"As a DJ I was elevating other people’s talent, but I underestimated the joy of creating.”

She finds working closely on bespoke projects for special occasions, where she gets to see the very best of people, is particularly fulfilling.

“I’ve become quite mushy because you see people in love and it’s a lovely feeling. One man read an article about me and he came in with the clipping.

"He was looking for an anniversary gift for his wife and they were renewing their vows.

“He wanted the ring to tell their story. Rubys and emeralds to signify they were from England and Ireland, also starboard and port to signify their love of sailing.

"And the two diamonds for both of them.”

Another recent commission involved the recreation of a lost and much-loved necklace for a woman, commissioned by her husband, to mark a big life event.

“He basically had it recreated for the arrival of their first child. He had photos of her wearing it so we were able to recreate it.

"It’s amazing to see how thoughtful people can be.

“You start to think of these things as quite simple. It’s such a happy and romantic time for people, but there are a lot of decisions to make which can be quite intimidating.

"I’m blown away when they send me photos of their wedding day holding hands and wearing the rings.”

The Cocolat Maker

The very cornerstone of Leanne De Cerbo’s business is making food that makes others look and feel good without punishing themselves.

She set up her business, Urban Kitchen, to develop her delicious Cocolat range which is vastly different from traditional chocolate - free from dairy, gluten and low in sugar.

She uses ingredients like coconut oil and cacao, often using superfoods such as berries and chia seeds to enhance flavour.

Cacao - the cocoa bean in its raw state - contains ingredients that work with your serotonin levels to make you feel happy and relaxed.

The Cocolat collection features four ranges and 40 flavours.

A former magazine editor who wanted to start her own business, De Cerbo started experimenting with ingredients and flavours in the kitchen of her Dublin home.

“I’d been doing a course in social media and I hated it. I loved doing dinner parties and pulling out the stops at Christmas. I loved making chocolate at Christmas.

“The basic cocolat is where it started. All of it is plant based. I wanted to do something different.

"I didn’t want to replicate something else. I started messing around with things like a blackberry mojito chocolate that I make in the summertime.”

She started bringing her wares to The Supernatural Food Market to road test which flavours people loved most - and enjoyed the spirit of the market so much she still has a stall there.

Children come up to me and love the chocolate. It’s dark and rich so I didn’t think they would go for it, but they do.

"It’s great getting people’s feedback and telling me how much they enjoy it. It’s a great community and you get to know people.

"There is one little girl and she has an immunity condition and she can’t digest some things.

"She couldn’t have any of the range and I felt so bad for her. I created a type of cake made especially for her and it made me so happy.”

The year, she will be involved in a website called Green, featuring various producers who make food that looks good, tastes good and does good.

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