This past weekend, while preparing my lunch after a challenging Crossfit workout, I was looking for a good movie to watch on Netflix. While scrolling through the documentary section, I came across a film entitled “Happy”. The story of the film is;
“HAPPY takes us on a journey from the swamps of Louisiana to the slums of Kolkata in search of what really makes people happy. Combining real life stories of people from around the world and powerful interviews with the leading scientists in happiness research, HAPPY explores the secrets behind our most valued emotion."
After reading this, I was sold. I was interested to find out how the happiest people in the world were living their lives. According to researchers in the “Positive Psychology” field, there are three leading contributors to happiness. Those contributors are; Genetics, Status, and Life choices. In studies using identical twins, it was found that 50% of happiness comes from genetics. Obviously, as many of us know, genetics is something that we cannot control. The good news is, there is still a whopping 50% that we CAN control about our happiness.
Status, which includes, financial success and popularity, only accounts for 10% of happiness. Financial success refers to having enough money to take care of your needs. The positive psychologists found in an epidemiology study that the happiness difference between someone who earns $5,000 and someone who earns $50,000 was very dramatic while the difference in happiness between someone who earns $50,000 and someone who earns $50,000,000 was little to none. In fact, in some cases, it was found that those with too much “stuff” were actually less happy. In this context, popularity refers to how “up to date” people are with things, such as being fashionable and having the latest gadgets.
That still leaves another 40% of contributors leading to happiness which involves life choices. This documentary categorized “life choices” with things such as; having strong social connections, being a part of something greater than yourself, partaking in physical activity, creating variety, and finding flow.
Strong Social Connection: Some of the happiest recorded cultures in the world have a very close-knit community. For example in Okinawa, Japan, (the longest living average population in the world) whenever a member of the community passes away, everyone stops what they are doing and comes together for a ceremony. Along with that, the ashes of their deceased are all mixed together in one location to represent that they are all one big family.
Part of Something Greater: Very commonly, these happy cultures also feel a very strong spiritual connection, whether that be a religion, or a connection to something greater than themselves (God, Universe, Nature, Higher power, etc…).
Physical Activity: Not only does physical activity in it of itself release “feel good” hormones, but for many of these cultures, physical activity is “FUN”. This could involve playing sports (social connections) as well as hobbies. In this film there was an example of a man who loved to surf because it made him feel like he was one with nature (part of something greater than self).
Variety: Many of the happiest people recorded in this film enjoyed spicing up their life with variety. This did not necessarily mean they would stop what they were doing and travel the world. Sometimes it just meant simply changing the running route to add variety into their life.
Flow: In the context of this film, flow refers to performing activities that you enjoy so much that you forget about the world around you. For some people this could be having a “runners high”, for others it might be playing a musical instrument. Maybe you are great at your job and find flow at your job. Flow is a state of being that makes you feel like life is worth living.
This is just a small snapshot of what is to be taken away from the documentary entitled “Happy”. It is very inspiring to know how much influence we have over our levels of happiness. Life is filled with choices, happiness being one of them.