Sunday, November 25, 2012


Over the weekend Todd, Kenna, and I watched a documentary called Happy. As the name implies, it's a movie about happiness. It documents the recent findings by psychologists about what makes us happy.

Psychologists have studied depression for decades--diagnosing, measuring, and treating it--but it hasn't been until recently that they've started to study happiness. Their findings are fascinating.

The first thing that I found interesting is the fact that only 10% of your happiness is determined by your life events or situation. At the same time, 40% is determined by your decisions. That means that it's four times more important that you make good decision than that good things happen to you. The remaining 50% is determined by your genetics.

It won't surprise you that the decisions that bring you lasting happiness don't involve earning more money, grooming your image, or improving your social status. Those things do give you measurable happiness, but it lasts a very short time. Lasting happiness only comes from things that give you a sense of purpose or mastery.

The movie shows several activities that have been shown to increase happiness. They include meditation, interaction with family or close friends, exercise, acts of compassion, keeping a gratitude journal, and devotion to a higher purpose. These are all simple activities that anyone can do. Also, they are almost all activities that are promoted by organized religion. In other words, religions have known for eons what psychologists are just now discovering.

What I took away from the movie is that I need to treat exercise and keeping a journal more seriously. I need to also encourage my kids to do these activities.


Scott said...

This is indeed fascinating, but not surprising. It reminds me of the Barbara Walters show aired several years ago, in which she interviewed billionaires. She asked them if they were happy. Most said no. In her closing comments she said, "If you think money can make you happy, you don't know much about money or happiness."

Beverly said...

A thought-provoking post. What I took from it was that personal relationships (to family and to God) are more important than "stuff" and looks, although advertisers try to convince us otherwise.

Andrea said...

I know that when I am participating in things that I find purposeful, that I am happier. For me, these activities include sufficeint time to be a good wife and mother, time to develop my skills and talents (for me this is usually found through work or a calling), and time with other people. A balance of these things makes me feel fulfilled. When one area is left out, I feel a need for change, and sometimes that is interpreted as unhappiness. This past year I have had a lot of time for being a wife and mother, but I have lacked time in using my skills and socializing with others. While I love my family dearly, I have felt somewhat unhappy. I know that it is because the balance is off. I would like to watch this documentary.