I’m just going to come right out and say it – you’re looking a little down in the dumps these days.
Roko Belic, producer and director of the new documentary Happy, wants to see you smile. Therefore, he spent the last four years in search of a happier you.
After learning that the U.S. ranks 23rd on the list of World’s Happiest Countries, Belic and his crew traveled the world trying to figure out what makes people happy. Along the way, he found Roy Blanchard, who enjoys every moment with a big family despite living in what is clearly an impoverished community in the Louisiana basin. And Melissa Moody, who has such a zest for life despite the fact that she was once run over by a truck. (Seriously, run over…like, she was on the ground and the truck was on top of her.) And Andy Wimmer, who gave up his entire life to volunteer full time at Mother Teresa’s Home for the Dying in Calcutta, which is exactly what it sounds like, except more depressing.
Anyway, so this was very enlightening for me, because the other day I spilled half a coffee in my car and spent the next several hours convinced that the world had turned against me. Belic also interviews a number of “happiness experts” of various kinds, and finds that happiness is 50% genetic (as in – we begin life at a certain level of happy) and only 10% circumstantial. That means we have the remaining 40% to play with, and Happy gives us many suggestions on how best to do that, including:
- Exercise, especially if your exercise of choice involves doing something varied and interesting, like dressing up like a gorilla.
- Find something to do in your life that helps you achieve “flow” (i.e., you’re so engaged that you can’t remember if you’re happy or not), even if that something is making burritos. Or, I might even argue, especially if that something is making burritos.
- Have money…but not too much.
- Do nice, compassionate things for people.
- Find a community to be a part of.
- If at all possible, try very very hard to move to Bhutan, where the government is measuring the country’s well-being in terms of Gross National Happiness, rather than the more rudimentary GDP.
Not actually that hard, right? Because the movie was only in limited release, Belic has begun working with community members to host screenings across the country. He’s also designated this coming Saturday, February 11th as World Happy Day, during which there will be about a million screenings in venues all over the world.
I had a chance to ask Roko a few questions recently, mostly focused on how making the movie changed his life, because…dude. Of course it did.
I just finished watching the movie and…yikes. Clearly, I need to start working out more often, as well as make a host of other life changes. Was there anything in particular you started to do differently as a result of filming Happy?
Making the movie HAPPY changed my life. I started surfing again, after having stopped for about 12 years. My girlfriend and I moved to another city to be closer to friends – and in particular we moved to a mobile home park with a great community. After being in the community for a while we decided to have a baby. Our daughter was born 10 months ago.
Everybody you interview in the movie is just so…awesome, and enlightened. And you travel to so many places. Did you have any “favorites?” Favorite person? Favorite place? Biggest surprise?
I had an amazing time filming HAPPY, and many of the places we went I would love to go back to. One place that stands out in particular is Okinawa. The kind and fun-loving nature of the people was unforgettable.
I got to know some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met during filming. Some that stand out are Roy Blanchard for his childlike spirit (I mean that in a great way) of adventure and his appreciation of life, Melissa Moody for her resilience and tenacity, and Andy Wimmer for his selfless dedication to bettering the lives of others.
The biggest surprise during the making of HAPPY was realizing how deeply the experience of making the film had changed my life.
What are your post-Happy-Day plans – for the movie and for life? Any follow-up ideas?
My goal is to make our world happier. Happy people are more productive at work, find more creative solutions to problems, are less likely to commit crimes or pollute the environment. Happy people make the world better for others. I hope that with the help of people who see HAPPY on World Happy Day, that we can get the film screened to millions of people and make it available in schools and institutions of higher learning around the world.