I watched the movie Happy on Netflix, which is a documentary that looks at the keys to happiness after visiting 5 different continents. I was expecting it to be like the movie Babies, where they discover that no matter where you live and what your situation is, everyone goes through the same journey.
I was wrong. Clearly, certain societies are figuring out life happiness better than others.
One study showed that 50% of your ability to be happy is genetics. Maybe you are naturally more easy-going, or maybe you have a lot of anxiety and feeling happy is more difficult. 10% is situational – job, socioeconomic status, etc. The other 40% is influenced by your daily actions. You have active control of that 40%. Maybe it’s exercise or diet or meeting with friends or looking at cute puppies online.
Another study they did was looking at compassion meditation. According to Oprah.com:
Compassion meditation involves silently repeating certain phrases that express the intention to move from judgment to caring, from isolation to connection, from indifference or dislike to understanding.
When they did brain scans while people practiced compassion meditation, the parts of the brain “on fire” on the scan are the ones that are important to happiness.
The scans revealed significant activity in the insula – a region near the frontal portion of the brain that plays a key role in bodily representations of emotion.
That’s pretty amazing when you think about it. Just through intention, you can change and activate the happy part of the brain.
In the film, they also featured Denmark and Okinawa, which are internationally ranked for happiness and longevity. The common theme between these two is a strong sense of community.
In Denmark, many families live basically on communes. These aren’t the dirty hippy communes of the 60s and 70s. The housing structures are nice modern buildings that are more like a co-op dorm. Each family is in charge of dinner twice a month. Everyone shares in household duties. By having multiple families all living together, the kids have lots of “parents” and “grandparents” near by in addition to their biological family.
Similarly, in Okinawa, you have multiple generations all in the same village. They treat their neighbors the same as family, providing for them when they’re in need. And because there isn’t a whole lot else to do in these villages, they get together every week as a community to watch the local “band” perform traditional music and dances. They also keep active with gardening, for both health and hobby. The best line was from a 106-year-old woman who said she drinks sake every evening, goes to bed early and sleeps soundly every night. Sounds like a plan to me!
Of course, physical exercise (like Okinawans who garden and Brazilians who play sports on the beach regularly) releases dopamine. Dopamine = happy.
Here’s one of the last lines from the movie (as much as I could jot down, so not verbatim):
The things we love to do. Play. Friends and family. Doing things that are meaningful. Appreciating them.
Sharing the happy.
I found there were so many elements to yoga that fit within the keys to happiness, especially that sense of community, intention and doing something we love to do. Hopefully, y’all are experiencing the same so we can all share the happy.