How did you get started with the Happy movie project?
We learn a lot of things at school and at home while we are growing up. Teachers teach us how to solve algebra quicker, or throw basketball more accurately. Society teaches us to look cooler and dress nicely. However, nobody has taught me the most important skill of all; how to be happy. My friends and I thought there should be a movie about the subject.
What were some of the surprises along the way during researching/filming?
We travelled the world for several years looking for a universal solution for happiness and we discovered several common traits found in happy people regardless of race, gender, income, creed etc. Without exception, the happy people we met were simply kind, more giving and altruistic. We presented our findings to neuroscientists and psychologists, and surprisingly they agreed that scientifically speaking, compassion is indeed one of the most potent ingredients of happiness.
What did you learn most from producing the film?
Seeing so many people who are content with their lives, despite the fact that many of them, like those we met in the slums of Calcutta, the Kalahari desert and high in the Himalayas, have nothing, I realized I have far too much stuff. And what’s even more important is that there’s too much stuff in my mind, as well as in my home. I have started getting rid of it all, both physically and spiritually, simplifying my life. Interestingly, the more I get rid of it, the fuller and happier I feel now.
How has the film impacted your life?
After the film’s release I continued the search for happiness for myself. I work with researchers and monks and have developed a workshop based on positive psychology, neuroscience and Zen teachings, including mindfulness and compassion. I give the workshop at schools and corporations around the world.
What are you working on for the future?
While I'm still teaching mindfulness and happiness, I am working on another feature-length film. The subject matter is suffering and resilience. On the surface they seem the complete opposite of happiness, but after completing the script of the new film I realise that actually both deal with the same human skills – being present, staying in the here and now, feeling happier more and suffering less.
"Happy" is available on iTunes, Netflix, Amazon as well as on www.thehappymovie.com