Happiness, or the lack thereof, lies at the root of what makes life meaningful. But figuring out what exactly constitutes happiness, especially in a culture like the Unites States that tends to conflate money with meaning, proves to be elusive. It's not enough, the new documentary Happy suggests, to just be able to pursue happiness—you need to have the chops to capture it.
As part of GaiamTV’s Happiness Collection, Director Roko Belic tells the story of happiness from all angles, including into his artful mashup snippets from scientists, spiritual leaders, positivity psychologists, and arguably the most compelling, ordinary people grappling with their own lot in life. In their heartfelt narratives, they explore how their own lives prove fertile ground to test, and revise, definitions of happiness.
Belic did his due diligence in terms of research. In collecting over 400 hours of footage from all over the world, ranging from a surfer hotspot in Brazil, the slums of India, cohousing in Denmark, the frenetic pace of industrial Japan, to the insulated world of Bhutan, Belic's film carries a convincing breadth and depth.
This is not the mere woo-woo stuff of affirmation, but a moving explanation of how to nurture our own capacity to be happy. The film begins by introducing the notion that our happiness stems from a mash-up of genetics, life circumstances, and plenty of wiggle room. That substantial slice of our ration suggests we are inherently equipped to choose happiness, not just wish for it.
Here are four tips from the film to develop a happiness skillset. And while results may vary, watch for these telltale signs to make sure you are on the right track: absorption, a sense of something budding in your chest, and an increased interest in cooperation.
Practice random acts of kindness
One of the film's main takeaways is to get off the “hedonistic treadmill” of material desires, and onto the more solid footing of compassion, cooperation and service. Extend kindness in ever-widening circles and notice how it often comes back, twofold.
Claim your community
All your relations, family, friends, coworkers, neighbors and community have a huge impact on your happiness. Prioritizing these relationships, and devoting time for social bonding lies at the essence of our humanity. A healthy sense of community and a caring social network may be one of the best indicators of happiness.
Find your fulfillment
Lose yourself in some absorbing activity, such as gardening, dancing, music, or whatever your vocation; this ability can offer you a sense of complete fulfillment.
Appreciation, appreciation, appreciation
Money buys happiness, right? Wrong. The film conveys that true happiness stems from genuine gratitude for all that you do have, and a willingness to express that appreciation. Counting your blessing is a great way to shift the focus from what you don't have to what you do.