Friday, November 21, 2014

Film: Happy (2011)


Happy (2011) is a nice little documentary about happiness. It doesn't dig particularly deep but is broad reaching and uplifting in its simplicity.

A few points jotted down whilst watching:

- Profile of a poor rickshaw driver in India: He works in all conditions under the hot sun, and if it rains he gets wet. His house is a spare structure, with plastic tarp on one side, and the rain blows in during the monsoon. Sometimes he only has rice and salt to eat. He is poor but he is happy. In fact, he is as happy as the average American. He looks forward to seeing his children when he gets home, and his neighbours are good people. The people make him happy.
- Modern science suggests about 50% of our happiness is genetic and we deviate around a set range. Only about 10% of our happiness comes from differences in circumstances (e.g. money, property, popularity, etc). The other 40% comes from intentional behaviour such as expressing gratitude, doing something kind, getting into a flow activity, playing and connecting with the community.
- Vary what you do, maybe with a lot of change or just a bit. Variety is the spice of life.
- Having close supportive friends and family is important.
- People overestimate and underestimate the impact of +/-ve events. In general people do really well when things go bad (reversion to the baseline to a large extent).
- We are wealthier than we were fifty years ago (more cars, larger houses) but we do not appear to be happier. We adapt to our level of material goods. The hedonic treadmill is one of the enemies of happiness. Going from living under a bridge to a house is a big change (poverty to basic living), but going from from £50k to £100k has a lesser impact on happiness.
- Dopamine is the neurotransmitter for happiness. As you age, you are losing dopamine synapses. We get the best dopamine releases during physical activity (sports, bring in nature). Also get from being in the zone (aka 'flow'), when you are lost in an activity and have left yourself behind.
- The three main examples of extrinsic goals are money, image and status (external to you). In contrast, we also have intrinsic goals, which are inherently satisfying in and of themselves and relate to internal needs e.g. personal growth, relationships, desire to help and cooperate (these also release dopamine in the right circumstances).
- The internal and external goals can be in opposition to each other.
- Happiness can help you achieve your other goals and you are also nicer to be around.
- Bushmen of the Kalahari - "it doesn't matter what we're doing. Just being together makes us happy."
- Dalia Lama - says compassion is in our blood, from the beginning and across our whole life.
- We can generate love, compassion, care and kindness with meditation and practice. Caring about something bigger than yourself - transcending your own life, can improves happiness e.g. acts of kindness, reducing the burden of others.
- The formula is not the same for everyone. The building blocks of happiness: play, new experiences, friends and family, connectedness doing things that are meaningful, appreciating what we have - these can all be free.

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