I apologize in advance for a very long entry….
A few weeks ago I recorded a PBS show called Happy. The documentary has been around for a couple of years, and I was happy to finally see what it was all about. In fact, this film was all about what makes us happy (and what doesn’t). Several award winning film makers teamed up to bring us this eye (and heart) opening film that takes us from the bayous of Louisiana to the deserts of Namibia, from the beaches of Brazil to the villages of Okinawa. HAPPY explores the secrets behind our most valued emotion.
I wasn’t at all surprised to hear some of the statistics shared. I have always been a big but into the fact that money and things don’t make us happy. It was pointed out, however, that those that feel as I do, have never lived under a bridge. I get it. In fact, the happiness quotient goes up enormously between an income of zero dollars per year, to an income of $50,000 per year. After that, however, there is no difference in people’s true happiness. Sure, money buys trips and fancy homes, cars, clothing, jewelry, etc., But across the board, the people that are able to purchase those items were no happier in their souls, than the people who were simply able to pay their bills, not go hungry and have a roof over their heads.
The things that actually did make people happy, weren’t THINGS at all. Being part of a community, helping others, being with family and friends, growing food to share…these were the things, across the board, from country to country, that raised people’s happiness level. On statement that really impacted me, was about how COOPERATION makes us happy, while COMPETITION does not. Interesting. I love to cooperate, but I also love a good competition…except for the part where someone loses, which makes me feel terrible! This was EXACTLY the point. An very touching example was shared: a young, mentally and physically challenged girls was participating in a race. As she neared the finish line, and was being cheered in by her coach, she stopped, turned around, and put out a hand to wait for the next one to get close to the finish line. In turn, that person did the same thing and in the end 6 of these kids came happily running through the finish line, together, teaching their coach a lesson he would never forget, and instead chose to share with the world!
WOULDN’T IT BE WONDERFUL IF WE WERE ALL TAUGHT MORE ABOUT COOPERATION AND LESS ABOUT COMPETITION?
I am happy to learn many big companies are trying to do just that. Toyota is one of those companies who has now limited the amount of overtime people are allowed to work. I found this timely, based on a conversation I had with a loved one earlier in the day. We talked about how their should be laws to protect EVERYONE from too much work! This didn’t just dawn on the executives at Toyota. It was the result of too much HAROSHI. Haroshi is a word I just learned yesterday and it actually means sudden death from too much work. One of the families who fell victim to haroshi was featured in the film. Apparently, when building itself back up after the war, Japan went a little too far, literally working themselves to death, to keep up with the society they have built for themselves. Here in the states, we may not have a name for it, but it happens to much and should be against the law!
The nearby country of Bhutan has decided to do something about this and instead of working on raising the Gross National Product, they are working on raising their Gross National Happiness Index. Wow. What a concept. I love it!
I propose we all take the lead from Bhutan and do what we must to make ourselves happy. As documented in this film, making purchases of things beyond what we need, only provides immediate gratification and not long term happiness. In fact, when we purchase too much and end up with bills we cannot afford, it is definitely a recipe for stress, which leads to unhappiness. When we purchase items to show them to the world we are competing and we have learned that type of competition isn’t doing anything for our happiness factor.
I loved the way the director, Roko Belic, shared with us changes that he has made in his own life after making this film. While many feel making a big move for work is ok, Belic made a big move to be closer to his friends. He also mentioned his love of surfing finds him spending much more time doing that. The happiest people are those that engage in physical activity, eat healthfully and get enough sleep as well as all I mentioned earlier.
The special concluded with people learning meditations that lead to brain change. Meditating on being compassionate and cooperative physically changes our brains, not just our souls.
Again, I apologize for a long read, this morning–and typos which I, believe it or not do NOT go back to check on. I feel so strongly that we can control our own happiness, but it might take steps and I hope today we all take a step in that direction. If we can do nothing else today to move towards a higher state of happiness, perhaps we can do a good deed for someone else, and spend a few minutes in meditation. Go back to the basic questions and just let answers happen…those questions are “Who am I? What do I want? What is my purpose? and What makes me happy.” From my own experience, and that of a bazillion others that meditate, just asking the questions daily and sitting in silence, the answers will come. Kind of like the commercial for almond milk that you might have seen, if you never try, how can you know??