Whilst developing the idea for Life Seeker, I noticed a documentary pop up on Netflix. Entitled ‘Happy’, it was a no brainer as to whether this would end up on My List. In fact, I streamed it there and then, and the content blew me away.
A coincidental find to complement the subject I was studying or a positive ‘sign’ to tell me I was going in the right direction?
I like to think it was the latter.
‘Happy’ is a film about what makes us content with life. Just over $36,000 of backer funds via kickstarter enabled the happy team to travel the world. They compiled footage on a diverse selection of real lives and backed it up with scientific research.
What I love about the film is that it ditches the jargon and captures our emotive side. We meet real people like Manoj from Kolkata slum in India. He drives a rickshaw bare-footed and returns to his home made from wood and tarpauling. He tells the crew that seeing his children’s faces makes him feel rich and hearing them call ‘baba’ on his return fills him with joy.
Ronaldo from Brazil, a bronzed surfer (perhaps in his 60s?) lives in a small brick building by the sea. He raises baby birds until they can fly and tells his children to “work to live your life in tranquillity” in whatever they do.
Melissa Moody (once beauty queen -now facially disabled) after being run over by a truck is now a happier person who feels more grounded, centred and connected now she has accepted her life as it is. She believes “you can make a choice” to be happy.
Feeling inspired by such simple pleasures, it felt natural to compare these heart-warming stories with my own life, and to subconsciously benchmark them with what I think I gain from mine. In general, I am content with what I’ve got and if anything, many of the values described by those filmed, resonated with me and the life decisions I have made over recent years. Of course, there is also lots more I aspire to do.
From a scientific angle, it was also interesting to hear of a study that shows, although 60% of our happiness is controlled by our genes (50%) and circumstance (10%), a whopping 40% is defined by intentional activity (things we choose to do).
Psychologists in the film advise that we should seek out experiences that use or need dopamine, the neuro transmitter necessary for producing feelings of pleasure and happiness. They also describe ‘Flow’ (aka ‘in the zone’), the feeling you get when you are doing something you love. The benefits of experiencing flow are that you feel in control, forget your problems (and yourself for a short time), your ego disappears and overall, you feel life is definitely worth living.
Contrasting footage already the subject of many debates, is that of an American city worker quoting “lots of money” will ensure he has a successful, happy, long and healthy life. And coverage of the Japanese business culture; long hours, sardine-packed trains with workers sleeping whilst standing and young males rubbing their heads in stress (I witnessed this first hand during a visit to Osaka). All of which is increasingly resulting in ‘kirosho’, the name given to those who literally work themselves to death.
A suited Japanese businessman interviewed on his birthday eve, still clutching his briefcase and out with his work mates tells us that he told his wife “business is more important” and he will see her tomorrow. These examples plus more show how differently we continue to interpret happiness around the world.
In a nutshell, the good stuff outweighs the not so good by far and the statistics presented are something for anyone interested in living a happy life to note.
I wonder how long it will be until all of our nations are living like Bhutan, who measure GDH (Gross Domestic Happiness) as well as GDP, and make decisions at country level based on humanitarian benefit as well as financial.
Co-housing in Denmark (labelled ‘the happiest place on earth’) sounds like the perfect solution to me and probably millions of others. The cooking once or twice a month is just a bonus!
If you haven’t watched Happy yet, please do, you won’t be disappointed (pardon the pun).