Posted by Jean Jessup on Saturday, June 25, 2011
"The professor said to me, you could never measure happiness. Now why they thought you could measure depression which they were all doing, but you couldn't measure happiness, I'm not sure." - A psychologist, Happy the Movie.
I loved Happy: the Movie. Happy is directed by Roko Belic, the director of the documentary Ghengis Blues and the director of photography of I Am: The Documentary. Originally, Happy started out by Belic making a documentary for Tom Shadyak on happiness. Shadyak gave him the money to film the documentary and Belic ended up raising the money himself for distribution. During the filming of Happy, Shadyak decided to make his own documentary called, I Am which is about his own quest for happiness and turned out to be an expose on connectedness and changing the world. So I see these two films as sibling films.
I found the Happy movie to be immensely uplifting. It was a surprisingly practical and down-to-earth documentary on the nature of happiness and how one increases happiness in life. One of the values of being happy is that, in a state of happiness one is most able to clearly experience life and more easily take advantage of opportunities. The film started out exploring positive psychology. Among other psychology experts, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the author of the book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, was interviewed. He explained that Flow is basically doing what you most want to do while experiencing the timeless of being in the now. There were many examples in the film of people experiencing flow. There was an amazingly down-to-earth example of a guy who is a cook in a restaurant who really looks like he's in the flow when frying food. Experiencing happiness, being in the flow actually gives a person energy rather than tiring one out. Happy people also get back to their baseline faster after stress or you could say they recover from stress faster.
Material happiness was explored. It was found that in the U.S., once a person makes $50,000/year, anything after that makes no difference in happiness. A rickshaw driver in India was said to be as happy as a middle-class U.S. citizen. Even though the rickshaw driver had little material comforts, he had an extensive neighborhood support system which greatly contributed to his happiness.
The film explored what places on earth are the happiest and which are the most unhappy. The most unhappy country was Japan where people work very long hours and literally work themselves to death. There is a term for it, Karoshi, which means death from overwork. But surprisingly, one of the happiest places is also in Japan in a small village in Okinawa called, Ogimi. This village boasts of having the world's highest population of centenarians. When these centenarians were asked why they live so long, they said their community is very close-knit. Neighbors take care of each other and their community is like one family. They also support their traditions. They go to bed early and get plenty of sleep. One lady who was interviewed looked like she was eighty years old, but she was actually 106 years old.
The film went all over the world looking for happiness. In Denmark, a single mom with two kids joined a co-housing community when she had financial difficulties. The film showed how co-housing communities take the financial burden off people and give them an extended family and sense of belonging which promotes a deep sense of happiness. The people of The Kingdom of Bhuton (in the Himalayas) believe their government is responsible for the happiness of their people and therefore, keeps track of their gross national happiness through supporting spirituality.
One especially moving section of the film for me was a demonstration of how love and connectedness can replace bullying in a school. Michael Pritchard, an emotional healer and stand-up comic, was shown giving a class on cultivating emotional intelligence to an assembly of middle-school children. He asked students to get up and tell their feelings about being bullied. As a result, there was an immediate and profound transformation from separateness to connectedness in the whole room.
The film showed many more examples of how people cultivate their own happiness and the positive effects of happiness. In comparison to I Am: The Documentary, The Happy Movie is a superior expose on happiness and connectedness. I was thrilled that The Loft Cinema in Tucson, AZ showed a trailer for the film, which meant Happy is off the film festival circuit and now having a limited theatrical release. During it's film festival tour, Happy won numerous awards including multiple audience and best documentary awards. For Happy Movie screenings and info on the DVD release dates, go here. For a trailer and more information about the Happy Movie, go here.
Tags: happy the movie roko belic flow connectedness community ogimi karoshi positive psychology community connectedness happiness longevity