Are you Happy?

Last night a friend of mine and I attended the screening for the Happy Movie.  A documentary type movie about what actually makes people happy.  It was quite an amazing and interesting journey from the psychology and physiology of happiness, to the environment in which we live, the people around us, our personal and professional successes, to the culture that we live in.   There are so many components to what makes us happy. The question of happiness and what makes us happy is a complex and somewhat personal question.

The Happy Movie was initiated by a director/producer in the United States – Tom Shadyac (who produced Patch Adams, the Nutty Professor and other successful blockbuster films).   He noticed that his gardener and housekeeper seemed genuinely happier than friends, family and colleagues who were incredibly financially wealthy – people who had everything they wanted, including fame and prestige.  He wanted to understand the paradox more clearly as to why people who are wealthy seemed to be distinctly less happy than those who had limited finances and lived a much simpler life in comparison.

A NY Times article about this same topic prompted Tom to approach a documentary film producer Roko Belic, who initially thought the Happy Movie Project may take a year – but instead took five years of research and filming.  The concept of what makes people happy is a massive topic to unpack, explain and simplify.

Our successes and accomplishments help increase our happiness, but they should not be our reason for happiness.   As the movie explains happiness should be our baseline.

This got me thinking.  If our successes and accomplishments become our reason for happiness, then when things in our lives go sour our happiness or our reason for living will be devastated.

Our successes, accomplishments, our family and other great things are all fantastic, however they should not define our happiness!

At some time in our lives we are going to experience pain.  According to one psychologist in the movie, most people believe they will be devastated if something goes wrong in their lives, but the opposite has proven to be true.   It has been proven time and time again that people cope very well in times of adversity.   An inner strength rises up inside of them and the desire to get past this negative place or thing in our life becomes our sole desire.  You only have to look at the strength that people had when Queensland was being impacted by torrential rain and floods.

Coping and happiness despite circumstances is a choice that everyone needs to make. The decision to cope in times of trouble strengthens the coping muscles so that when adversity strikes –  we can push through the hard times.

Have you ever heard of the phrase ‘Gross National Happiness Index’?

Up until I saw this movie I had never heard of this term before.   The assessment of gross national happiness was designed to measure happiness.   How happy are the people in our country – in terms of an overall statistic.  It is an attempt to define an indicator that measures quality of life or social progress in more holistic and psychological terms than only the economic indicator of gross domestic product.

The following are the nine tests of Gross National Happiness:

1) Psychological well being
2) Health
3) Time use
4) Education
5) Cultural diversity and resilience
6) Good governance
7) Community vitality
8) Ecological diversity and resilience
9) Living standard

I am still looking into this particular subject as I want to know where Australia and America are in the great scheme of this particular testing.  I think from memory the movie said that America was rated around the 27 marker, so this means that there are 26 happier countries.  I find this type of information particular interesting, so I will get back to you with regard to what the gross national happiness rating is for Australia.

Bhutan, a country south of China,  is considered to have the highest  measured gross national happiness rating.     They see that happiness is far more important than profit.

A study was done for this movie, and the one common thread among all people who participated in the study indicated that connection with others was the most vital aspect to happiness.  Connection to others helps people function better, we are healthier,  we live longer, and we are less stressed.

  “The most beautiful things in the world cannot be
seen or even touched, they must be felt with the heart.”
Helen Keller 

I find it particularly interesting that Norway is considered the happiest place to live.  There were three aspects discussed in the movie.   Norwegian’s pay 50% of their income to tax – happily!    In return, the people of Norway are all educated for free, and all medical needs are taken care of.  Does this mean that when peoples basic needs are met, they feel happier?  Also, according to the movie, many people live in large communities where 20 families live together. They have common areas, share meals, share the housework, maintenance of property and land and so forth. The people are connected with others, and love it.

On the other hand, the Japanese culture is quite different.    They work hard and rarely take time out to play.   There is much pressure to perform at work, and as a result people are dying.  The Japanese are over-worked and have no down time.    It is so common now, that they have a name for it – Karoshi, which literally means ‘death by overwork’.  Another term that I read online for it is ‘the salary man’s suicide’.   The major medical causes of karōshi deaths are heart attack and stroke due to stress.   It just proves how important down time is.  Connecting with our loved ones and our friends is incredibly important for our health and our wellbeing.  Sadly, Karoshi death statistics have sky rocketed over the last 10 years.  The positive now though is that companies are being held accountable for how hard they work their staff.   I really do hope that the Japanese families can find balance and start to stress less.

Everybody deserves to be happy.   Everybody deserves to live life feeling cared for and appreciated.    Everybody deserves to feel relaxed, joyful and connected with others.   At the start of the movie a surfer was interviewed, and was asked ‘what was his desire for his children?’   the man’s response was this.  “I want my children to grow up and to work so that they can live their lives in tranquility’.  He did not want them to work in jobs where they felt stressed, time poor, unhappy, unfulfilled, or micromanaged.   He wanted them to live a simple life where they felt happy and connected to others.  This was important to him.    The formula for happiness is different for everyone, however the building blocks for happiness are the same.     The building blocks are Play, New Experiences, Family and Friends, Community – doing things for others, and Appreciating others’.

I would really like to encourage you to see this documentary movie when it comes to the movies.   I woke up thinking about this film, and while I am still trying to work out exactly how my life has been changed by this movie, I do feel that there has been some type of shift.    I know that I am going to continue thinking about this movie for some days ahead.   I love the idea of living my life in tranquility, and in many respects I do.  Living on the Sunshine Coast is paradise.   I need to keep reminding myself to enjoy it as the tourists do, as its easy to get out of the habit of going to the beach and losing ourselves in issues!    What makes me happy is to spend quality time with my hubby and kids, and connecting with family and friends –  I need to do a lot more of it, after all – there is always going to be a washing basket to fold!          xo