Monday, March 18, 2013
There are so many articles and books about happiness now. It's as though "the pursuit of happiness" has taken on a distorted life of its own. More about that in a later post, though. This post is about the documentary "Happy."
I'd seen this on Netflix for a while and was curious, so the other day I sat down to watch it. Surprisingly, it wasn't necessarily about how to go about being happy, but it was a sociological look at happiness around the world. It starts out noting that depression has long been studied by psychologists and sociologists, but the opposite, happiness, has not. At least not for long. The film proceeds to explain how happiness is physically achieved with dopamine receptors in the brain, goes on to examine the happiest and least happy places in the world, and sums it all up with the top things that make one happy, based on the research.
Among all the data is a series of in-depth character studies: a rickshaw operator in India, an accident victim, the overworked Japanese who even have a name for dropping dead from exhaustion (yes, it's quite common there), the country of Bhutan, which seeks Gross National Happiness instead of Gross National Product, and more. These snapshots of people from different socio-economic backgrounds are moving and thought-provoking. They allow the viewer to step back and reconsider his or her own life, and decide where his or her values and ideals lie in light of others' experiences.
The film concludes with the premise that happiness is a trait that can be cultivated, regardless of socio-economic status. It requires dedication, a firm view of personal values, and the ability to go against the norm. The kicker is that cultivating happiness definitely goes against the American norm of success, ambition, busyness, and isolation. It means unplugging. It means a completely different way of life.
Happiness is out there. It just looks different than what we often end up believing.
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