Happy:) Part 1

We all strive for happiness.  However, what we think makes us happy is seldom the case.  The movie Happy ,interestingly enough, brings to light the subject of happiness, or now called positive psychology. I recommend watching the movie first hand, but if not, my points from the movie may provoke some thoughts about your level of happiness.  And if you’re not happy, maybe it’s because your on the Hedonic Treadmill ?


  • “The constitution only guarantees the American People the right to pursue happiness.  YOU HAVE TO CATCH IT YOURSELF. – Benjamin Franklin




  • The movie starts out in a slum in India with a poor rickshaw driver, living in a tarp covered shack with his family. Surprisingly he was found to be as happy as the average American surveyed. He actually expressed feeling rich not poor  because of family and his neighbors.
  • 1000’s of years psychologists have studied depression, recently however scientists have tried the reverse approach to studying the building blocks of happiness this is referred to as positive psychology
  • 50 % of differences in happiness levels are determined by our genes (genetic set point).  Circumstances that include job, health, social status etc (what we tend to focus on) make up only 10% of differences in happiness.  The other 40% is left to the “intentional Activity” or actions you choose to do in life.
  • Intentional activities include, physical activity, music, sport etc
  • Studies on happiness tend to focus on the Neurotransmitter dopamine (feel good chemical), which tends to diminish with age
  • Best activities to release dopamine are related to EXERCISE! – especially done in novel ways, ie games, sport, activities for the fun of it
  •  Another component of happiness and exercise is related to the experience of “FLOW” , often experienced by athletes in the “zone” or a synergy of different aspects of consciousness, feel in control, forget problems, themselves – good news is you don’t have to be an athlete to experience this, it can happen at your job, with friends when you are fully present and enjoying the moment
  •  Research is clear, people who experience flow on a regular basis are happier than those who don’t
  • Daniel Gilbert, PH.D. (also appearing on Oprah) says, Much of what we believe about the causes and sources of happiness, simply isn’t true!  People overestimate the impact good and bad events will have on them in the future.  For example, people believe if a good or bad thing happens they will be ecstatic or devastated for a long period of time.  The reality is, both good and bad events have less impact than we imagine.   The good news is we are resilient and in general people do very well when really bad things happen to us.
  • Richard J. Davidson, PH.D.  says, the research does NOT support the notion that “all adversity is bad” – the key ingredients to being happy is the ability to recover from adversity more quickly!  People that are happier come down to “baseline” more quickly after the normal adversity responses.
  • There is no such thing as pleasure without pain says P. Read Montague. PH. D.  – your nervous system is a deferential engine, it looks at contrasts and integrates the differences in things.
  • Tim Kasser, PH. D. raises the point that “we are told in our society that the way to be a competent/ good person is to make a lot of money”- ironically as the wealth has dramatically increased in America happiness has remained stagnant over the last 50 yrs despite living in bigger house
  • Once you have basic needs met, more money doesn’t seem to increase happiness that much, the difference between someone who makes $5000 and $50 000 is dramatic, the difference between someone making $50 000 and $50 million is NOT dramatic.
  • The idea goes back to the notion of the Hedonic treadmill that is whatever level of wealth or material goods we have we adapt to it, and we will always want more. The Hedonic treadmill is one of the main enemies of happiness!
  • So what is the answer to being happy?…Find out in my next post, Happy part 2!

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