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What do you want out of life?

This question is annoyingly general, so very cliché, and far too complex to answer concisely, yet at the same time, most people seem to deliver the same response.

"I wanna be happy."

The US ranks number one in wealth and 23rd in happiness. What's with the disconnect?

Many were curious and research has been done which can be found in a wealth of books and most recently in a must-see documentary fittingly titled, "Happy."

Due to my bedridden state last weekend, I found myself spending an inordinate amount of time with my Netflix account. Their collection of videos available for instant watching is minimal, but the departments they're never lacking in are TV series and documentaries--two of my favorites. After this shout out on Cupcakes + Cashmere, I decided to check out "Happy."

While the documentary was uplifting, inspiring and fascinating in its entirety, I found this tidbit to be the most impactful.

Half of our happiness comes from our genes. Indeed, we are genetically programmed to achieve a certain capacity of happiness. We all know those people that are ridiculously smiley and happy all the time, you know, the ones we want to slap on Monday mornings. They got a lot of this happy gene. And then the more brooding folk--not so much, I guess.

Then there's a little sliver, approximately 10%, that comes from the things we think make up for most of our happiness--money, clothes, status, cars, popularity, big houses. And they do--temporarily at least.

So we have 40% remaining. This part is in our hands, a strange but almost comforting feeling. The problem about this is that few of us recognize this fact, thus we don't actively act upon it. This is that run in the morning, a coffee date with our best friend, pursuing our passions, alone time, etc.

Another misconceived fact most humans believe about happiness is that tragic events leave us devastated for unbearably long periods of time. In actuality, humans are very good at getting over tragedies. It's continuous lifestyles that don't build in a flow, a purpose, and a sense of meaning (all that stuff in the 40%) that leaves us continually unsatisfied.

So here's the deal. Once we've got the basics--H20, a roof over our heads, food on the table--economic factors barely play into our relative happiness.

The film primarily presents evidence of all of these things by comparing countries--overworked Japan, community-oriented Denmark, impoverished India, materialist America, and others--illustrating how the citizens of these nations cultivate their happiness (or unhappiness in some cases).


I want to live my life enjoying the human experience to the fullest, and I feel like if anything holds me back from doing so it's always needing something else. "If I get this, then I'll be happy." The "this" in this equation consists of anything from this post, all things from a pair of boots to a boyfriend. But, this film as well as a shift in focus this year has allowed me to realize what's truly significant, what's sitting right in front of me, and what really matters. And it's a lot of these things. Oh, and this.

There's someone, in fact a lot of someones, who are happy with a lot less than I have. We are physical beings but our life exists in our emotions, attitudes, and well-being, not our car, our closet, or even our career.

With my previous posts this week being inundated with images, I thought it was time for words; but, I just couldn't resist including this of baby nephew Alexander. I wish you all very happy weekends, in every sense of the word.


Erin said...

Is there anything better than seeing a happy baby face? Great post moll.

Carolyn said...

Ah, great post. Moving to Austria taught me this more than anything else. Oh, and also that little man there at the end of this post. :)

mary said...

I loved this post!! Great words, Molly :) you can always be an inspiration to me! you seem so mature and clever.
keep it up :)