‘Happy’ Delves into the Science of, Well, Happiness

Are you happy?

If not, then Roko Belic’s 2011 documentary Happy can help you figure out how to find it.

Through a combination of expert commentary, personal stories, and animation, Happy shows how people are happy or can become happy. The expert commentary comes from people whose work connects with a growing field called positive psychology, which focuses on “the science of happiness.”

Some of the answers include community ties, regular exercise, the “zone” or “flow,” personal improvement projects, compassion meditation, and volunteer activities.

The answer doesn’t lie in money or possessions, and the documentary uses several personal stories to demonstrate that point, including a rickshaw driver in India and a resident of Louisiana. Both men are rich in family and love, but lack in money and possessions.

Happy also doesn’t mean avoiding trauma or sadness, but instead refers to how people respond to trauma or sadness. A woman recovering from a tragic accident becomes the personal example here. While she underwent many surgeries and a divorce, she still found ways to move forward, remarry, and appreciate life.

The documentary also features a short segment on Bhutan, which boasts a Gross National Happiness index instead of a Gross National Product index. Instead of focusing on markets and capital, Bhutan places its priorities on its people’s happiness first.

Happy to me feels like a “lifestyle documentary,” which addresses a particular audience who lives a particular lifestyle. In this case the audience has degrees of achievement and wealth, with disposable income and the minds to invest in activities and items deemed worthwhile. (Most of the personal stories in this documentary come from people who are not members of this group.) This might explain the Lululemon connection listed in the credits and it availability on GaiamTV.

In all, Happy has a lot of interesting information, but in the end it feels like a self-help book made into a movie.

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