Geelong entertainer Angie Hilton was motivated by her own mental health experiences to research and bring to our TV screens a series exploring the journey to happiness.
Whether performing on stage or gracing the small screen, Angie Hilton emanates happiness. The vivacious Geelong singer and television presenter boasts a smile to light up a room, and a charismatic personality that has seen her establish herself as one of the region’s most engaging entertainers. But it hasn’t always been so.
Angie suffered a severe bout of depression in her late 20s which, at the time, saw her unable to eat, sleep or function well enough to work. As depression often does, it struck without warning and left the now 42-year-old in a state where even leaving her house was a struggle.
“I must admit I was shocked to find myself in that position as I would have always considered myself to be a generally happy-go-lucky kind of person,” she recalls.
“I learnt very quickly that depression doesn’t discriminate.” While the experience was crippling for a time, it also proved to be a turning point in several areas of Angie’s life.
As she sought methods to help her deal with the condition, Angie discovered a passion for well-being. And, as her own mental health improved, she increasingly committed herself to supporting others experiencing similar issues. She is now sharing that passion with a national audience through an inspiring and uplifting series called Destination Happiness, which will air on the Nine network from August 26. The 13-part lifestyle series, of which Angie is the creator, producer and co-host, investigates the many and varied paths viewers can explore in order to experience happiness.
It has been several years and a lot of hard work to get Destination Happiness off the ground and Angie credits her own experience as the driving force behind realising her long-term dream of seeing the program come to fruition. Supported by her husband Braith Cox and sister Lee Hilton, Angie persevered with launching the series – even when it seemed unlikely – such was her commitment to wider well-being.
“I made it my mission to understand how I got into that state, how I could get out of it, and how I could hopefully stay out of it,” Angie, who is mum to children Scarlett, 9, and Sonny, 7, explains.
“I started researching happiness by reading self-help books and trying all types of therapy until I found what worked best for me.
“It took me a couple of years to get over the worst of it. My recovery was like a jagged line but always trending up. “In this time I learnt that happiness is a skill that you can practise and get better at. I still have my bad days, as does everyone, but I have a great tool kit to dip into that can bring me out of those moods a lot quicker.
“I still believe in the old adage ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’.
“In a perfect world I’d love for us all to be able to talk about our mental health issues as easily as we talk about having a cold.”
Destination Happiness explores inspirational stories, physical training techniques, mindfulness-based activities, uplifting destinations and nutritional food.
The series revolves around health and well-being with a strong emphasis on mental health.
“Happy eating, happy bodies, happy travels, happy pets, happy people and random acts of happiness – basically there’s a whole lot of happy going on,” Angie says of the show’s regular segments.
“Having said that, while it is meant to be an uplifting show, we don’t shy away from more gritty subjects.
“We aim to break the mental health stigma and get people opening up about their own personal ups and downs because, let’s face it, we all have them.
” Along with co-host Shura Taft, Angie is supported throughout the series by a team of experts, many of whom are also Geelong-based, including resident clinical psychologist Chris Mackey, GP Dr Leanne Douglas and veterinarian Dr Jane Miller.
As a first-time producer Angie has found the experience to be both exciting and challenging, and says she has been buoyed by the content gathered so far.
“I loved going to Patrick Dangerfield’s ‘happy place’ which is fishing in Moggs Creek,” she says.
“He is a very insightful guy who completely gets the balance of what’s important in life. He shared many pearls of wisdom over coffee in Moggs.
“We interviewed Hugh Cuylenburg from The Resilience Project who talks about how his life changed when he realised that the children he was teaching in India seemed so much happier than kids at home, though they didn’t even have shoes on their feet.
“Tim Robards from The Bachelor took me through a happy bodies segment and taught me how to do my first ever chin-up. “We also visited amazing places to stay such as Olivia Newton John’s Gaia Retreat in Byron Bay and Roar and Snore glamping at Taronga Zoo where you fall asleep to the sounds of the wild.”
And while she says inspirational people and uplifting destinations have certainly put a smile on her face, it’s often the smaller things in life that support her well-being. Cups of tea with friends, her mum’s roast dinners, enjoying Game of Thrones with Braith, Mint Aero chocolate bars, bubble baths and cuddles with Scarlett and Sonny are the day-today activities that help Angie achieve her own happiness.
“I’ve been on a mission to understand mental health and the methods we can engage in to bring joy back into our lives,” Angie says.
“I hope that viewers can take away little nuggets of wisdom from the people I interview, or a little nudge of motivation to look at improving their health.
“I truly believe happiness really does come from taking a holistic approach to life – a balanced diet, exercise, good mental habits and connection.
“I also believe that happiness should never be taken for granted. There are a lot of tools in positive psychology we can implement in our daily life that can prevent us from slipping into those darker moods.
“Destination Happiness is a product of the endless research I’ve undertaken over the years that I’d love to share as far and wide as possible.”
Destination Happiness will air on the Nine network on Saturdays from noon-12.30pm, beginning on August 26.
Visit destinationhappiness.com to find out more.
People experiencing personal problems can call Lifeline on 13 11 14.