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5 Ways to Feel Happy: Tips from Roko Belic's Documentary "Happy

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What are the secrets of happiness? Documentary filmmaker Roko Belic went around the world to find out. Here are his universal factors for feeling good. Sylvia Somerville Sep 1, 2011

What do a rickshaw driver in Calcutta (Kolkata), a single mother in Denmark, an Okinawa islander, a Namibian Bushman and a Louisiana Bayou tour guide have in common? They are all exceptionally happy, according to “Happy,” a documentary film by Academy Award-nominated director Roko Belic ("Genghis Blues") and the production team of "Beyond the Call."

according to happiness surveys by organizations such as the World Database of Happiness. Altruistic deeds also stimulate the left frontal cortex. All around the globe people report a sense of happiness that eludes many Americans. A Sense of Friendship and Community Having strong relationships and a large support network is a leading happiness factor all over the world—whether it is in the slums of Calcutta. In fact. 2011.The movie. “Happy” introduces a single Danish mother who lives in a multi-generational co-housing community. people report that doing something for others adds meaning to their life. such as shopping and cooking every day. most Danes (as high as 97 percent according to msnbc. He explains that even the simple act of offering a cup of water to a dying man brings him a great deal of joy.” compassionate thoughts and generous actions actually change the chemistry of the brain. 2. producing dopamine. Now it’s just a few times a month. Why is life satisfaction so much easier to come by in other places? The “Happy” crew identified these key factors from man-on-the-street interviews and conversations with research scientists. Caring and Doing for Others According to scientists interviewed in “Happy. which is not unlike having a large extended family. She also appreciates having other adults around to keep an eye on her children. The mother says she no longer feels the stress of having to constantly juggle responsibilities. which was screened by the Sedona International Film Festival (SIFF) during its "Docs that Make a Difference" series. a hormone that is believed to trigger happiness. In addition to feeling good. had its Northern Arizona premiere on August 30. it is extraordinary!" says Beverly Huff. 1. A former banker tells Belic how happy and fulfilled he now feels volunteering at Mother Teresa’s Home for the Destitute and Dying. which consistently ranks first as the happiest nation on earth. In Denmark. "This is one film that everyone should see. a SIFF board member and the film festival events coordinator.com) believe they have someone other than a family member that they can rely upon. the United States ranks consistently lower than many other countries on the happiness scale. in the desert of South Africa or on the streets of Scandinavia. . which researchers have identified as the brain’s happiness center. Both she and her children extol the benefits of this group -living arrangement.

Engaging in Activities that One Finds Enjoyable Whatever one likes to do can ramp up the happiness meter by putting one in a state of “flow.” As the crew follows Blanchard in his boat. Once basic human needs are met. with Plenty of Leisure Time Workaholics definitely don’t rank high on the happiness scale. the focus on production over contentment has led to karoshi or death from overwork—even among young workers in their 20s and 30s who die suddenly of a heart attack or stroke. a tour guide in the Louisiana bayou. shelter and health care. Captain Blanchard. In the film. for the sheer sake of it. a crocodile slides his head out of the water and an egret gets ready to dine. the government focuses not on a gross national product (GNP) index but on gross national happiness. In Bhutan. 4. . in Tokyo. A Personal Involvement with Nature Many people report that time spent outdoors is a very joyful experience and. "Happy" says it's your DNA. delights in knowing that no two days will ever be the same. “You don’t know what you are going to see. even at great cost.3. author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. however. On the island of Okinawa.” According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. which is also part of Japanese culture. As the documentary demonstrates. 5. “This is a paradise to me. like compassionate outreach.” In the movie a cook dances as he works and a surfer delights in his sport. your sense of balance and community that have the greatest impact on happiness. helps them connect with something larger than themselves. Japan.” he grins. Perhaps it’s because the islanders care for each other and have never forsaken their tradition of intergenerational communication and connection. such as food. The experience itself is so enjoyable they will do it. A Balanced Life. In fact. “Flow is the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter. owning things is a minor factor in creating a satisfying and happy life. there are more centenarians than anywhere else in the world.