Last week, we watched a really interesting documentary called Happy. The filmmakers travelled around the world trying to find out what makes people happy.
From the slums of Calcutta to the wealthiest parts of New York City, they spoke to people about what makes them happy and how to live a fulfilling life.
It was inspired by this article in the New York Times about how we man can measure happiness.
Here are a few things we discovered from watching this fascinating documentary….
Happiness isn’t about where you live or what job you have
Now, this is really interesting.
This pie chart shows what makes people happy in broad terms. It was part of a study made by psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky.
Amazingly, 50 per cent of our happiness depends on genetics, according to this study. So, you are quite literally born with a certain level of happiness built into you.
Circumstances – where you live, how much money you earn, etc. – only account for 10 per cent of your overall happiness.
That means 40 per cent of your happiness comes from intentional activity i.e. what you choose to do with your time.
So next time you find yourself moaning that your job or grimy flat is making you unhappy, think again.
Money doesn’t make you happy
You can be the poorest family in Calcutta – with seven of you living in a single room – but this doesn’t mean you’ll be any happier than a banker with a multi-million pound penthouse in New York City.
It seems obvious, but money has very little to do with people’s happiness.
Rich people are no more happy than someone who is very poor. That said, if money buys you out of homelessness or wondering where your next meal will come from, it will make you very happy.
But once you have met your basic needs, more money doesn’t equate to more happiness.
You can die from over-working
Have you ever heard of ‘karoushi’? It’s a relatively new phenomenon in Japan. It literally means ‘death from overworking’.
Japan’s work culture is so pressurised and stressful that ‘karoushi’ is now been listed as a legal cause for death.
Thousands of young men have died from stress after working over 4,000 hours in a single year (an ordinary 40 hour working week equates to 2,000 hours per year).
There is even a law that gives widows money if their husband’s die from karoushi.
Sport scientifically makes people live longer
Dopamine is a hormone that sends message to the brain, making you feel happy.
As you get older, your body slowly produces less dopamine naturally. If these dopamine receptors degenerate too much, you may develop Parkinson’s Disease.
So, scientists recommend seeking out experiences to produce dopamine to keep these receptors working. What produces the most dopamine? Physical activity, apparently.
So, by surfing, running, climbing, swimming, whatever you enjoy doing, you are also helping yourself stay healthy and live longer.
Good food and friends are all you need
You know when The Beatles sung, “Love is all you need”? Well, they were right. Just about.
The island of Okinawa in Japan has the highest population of people over the age of 100 than anywhere else in the world.
Why have these people managed to live such long, happy lives? Well, researchers think it’s a combination of diet and community spirit.
Their food is very low in calories but high in vegetables. They retain a deep sense of community spirit with elders meeting throughout the week to practice hobbies and hang out together.
Even those over 100 years old are still made to feel like active parts of the community. They also have low levels of stress and practice mindful exercise such as tai chi.
Don’t worry, we haven’t spoilt the film for you entirely. It’s definitely worth a watch if you’re looking for a pick-me-up this evening.