Significant Results

Using research findings to tell a more positive story.

What Do All People Have in Common?

All people have at least one thing in common.

This Saturday—February 11,2012—is called "World Happy Day." In part, this global event is related to the launch of a new documentary called Happy, directed by Academy Award nominee Roko Belic (Genghis Blues). Happy balances interviews with leading happiness researchers such as Ed Diener and Sonja Lyubomirsky with real world illustrations of happiness in examples from around the world. Belic has done an excellent job putting a human face on the science of happiness by highlighting the stories of real people such as a rickshaw driver in Kolkata, a single mother in Denmark and a surer in Brazil. The cinematography is goergeous and the editing crips. What is most impressive about the film, however, is the way it strikes a chord in audiences.

People who watch the movie feel like they are part of a movement, and rightly so. World Happy Day will see the screening of Happy in 600 locations in 60 countries on all 7 continents. That's right; there will be a showing McMurdo Station in Antarctica! The fact that people in dozens of countries connect with this subejct matter is testament to the fact that the pursuit of happiness is not simply an American notion.

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Research on thousands of people from dozens of countries confirms the ubiquitous nature of happiness. In a cross-cultural study by Ed Diener and his colleagues respondents in nations as diverse as Turkey, China and Brazil rated—on average—happiness as being more important than other highly worthwile goals such as falling in love, gaining money, being good looking and even getting into heaven!

One reason that happiness might be so universally prized is that it is so easy to get. Yep; it's easy to get. Not only do data suggest that most people are mildly happy most of the time, but one of the greatest causes of happiness-- according to researchers-- is cultivating solid social relationships. Researcher Laura King and her colleauges, for example, have found that people see good relationships as necessary for "The Good Life." In fact, even when a person found exceptional meaning at work respondents were still unlikely to describe that life as desirable if it did not also include good social connetions. 

This is, of course, the take-home message of the Happy movie as well: happiness is all around you and it is most easily seen in your friends and loved ones, in a charitable spirit toward your fellow human, and in the cultivation of trust of others. This is, ultimately, where Happy delivers on its promise: It is an experience that is less about self-help and personal happiness than it is about the joys of communal experience. In this particular case, the joys of watching a film.

You can enjoy a screening near you. Find out more at: www.worldhappyday.com

 

Robert Biswas-Diener is a happiness researcher and adventurer.

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